COVID-19 outbreak puts Serie A, Euros in limbo


SLENDER LEAD: Juventus are leading the table by one point ahead of Lazio. - AFP
SLENDER LEAD: Juventus are leading the table by one point ahead of Lazio. - AFP

Dubai - Italy, the second-most affected after China, under lockdown as death toll rises to 463

By James Jose

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Published: Tue 10 Mar 2020, 8:36 PM

Last updated: Tue 10 Mar 2020, 10:44 PM

As Ferrari start their engines faraway Down Under, at the season-opening Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, the thoughts of the Italian marquee will be on events back home where everything has come to a screeching halt.
Sports competitions have been suspended as Italy grapples with the coronavirus that has hit many parts of the planet.
Italy is the second-most affected after China and the country, known for its art, architecture, fashion, film and not to mention the food, has come to a standstill.
Motorsport and football represent two of the major sports in this sport-mad nation and while MotoGP is still someway away in May and the Formula One bandwagon will only roll into Monza, Ferrari's fortress, in September, Serie A football has taken a hit.
The Italian government's decision to suspend all sporting events until April 3 at the least, has not only created doubts on how the title race will be decided but could also have a knock-on effect on the upcoming Euros.
With the country, with a population of just over 60 million, in a state of lockdown, Serie A has stopped at 26 matches out of the 38 fixtures in the season. Reigning champions and eight-time winner Juventus currently lead the table by the slenderest of margins - just a point - over Lazio. Inter Milan lie third, nine points adrift, but still with a game in hand.
With matches cancelled until April 3, three rounds of games have to be penciled in before the curtains come down on the season on May 24. In the current scenario, and with the title race so tight, it remains to be seen how it can be reworked to bring it to its conclusion by May end.
Perhaps, there could be a reduction of rounds to decide the new champions, but then again, it also depends on if and when the coronavirus, that has seen the death toll rise to 463 in the country, dies down.
The latest turn of events also puts a doubt on Euro 2020 that will be hosted by 12 countries, including Italy. Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Spain are the other host countries.
Earlier, Serie A matches including Juventus againt Inter Milan were played behind closed doors at the weekend, while La Liga matches will now play to empty arenas. The English Premiership too might follow the cue.
The Euros will begin on June 12 and run until July 12. If things go further south, the Uefa might take the unprecedented step of canceling the Euros.
The last time Italy faced such a situation was in 1973 when a cholera epidemic left 227 dead. But football didn't stop.
Before the lockdown, Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 behind closed doors on Monday. After scoring his opening goal Sassuolo striker Francesco Caputo held up a handwritten message on piece of paper, urging fans: "Everything will be fine. Stay at home."
Perhaps, that would be the wisest thing to do, for now.

La Liga, Champions League matches ?to be played behind closed doors

MADRID - Spain's La Liga confirmed on Tuesday that first and second division football matches will be staged behind closed doors for at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The measures follow the decision of the Spanish High Council of Sports that all sporting events in Spain at state and international level should be played without fans to limit the spread of the virus.
Barcelona's Champions League match against Napoli will be played in an empty stadium because of the coronavirus outbreak, the club said Tuesday.
The Spanish club said no fans will be allowed in to watch the match at Camp Nou on March 18. The teams drew 1-1 in the first leg in Italy. Tuesday's Champions League game between Valencia and Atalanta in Spain also will be played in an empty stadium. Two Europa League matches in the country also have been affected - Sevilla vs. Roma on Thursday and Getafe vs. Inter Milan on March 19.

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