An extraordinary meeting will be held this Tuesday by Italian football authorities and government officials to discuss the potential suspension of the Serie A season amid the global coronavirus outbreak.
Last weekend’s matches, which were played behind closed doors, could be the last round to take place for some time, with the players and their union unhappy at the risks being taken and the soulless atmosphere.
Italy is the hardest-hit country in Europe, with 7,375 cases and 366 deaths from the disease, known as Covid-19 and originating from Wuhan, as of Monday.
Some 16 million people or a quarter of the population have been placed in lockdown, with the Italian government ring-fencing the Lombardy region, of which Milan is the capital, as well as 14 provinces in four other regions, including the cities of Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia and Rimini.
The drastic measures led Brescia striker Mario Balotelli to demand an immediate halt to SerieA games.
Ranting on his Instagram page, the Italy international said: “Money isn’t worth our health, we have to wake up. Don’t write rubbish to me like, ‘Nothing happens to you behind closed doors!’
“Playing means travelling by bus, train, aeroplane, sleeping in a hotel, in any case entering into contact with other people outside of your working environment.
“I already don’t get to see my children because of this damned coronavirus… I certainly don’t want my mother to catch anything from me, I won’t risk her getting ill.
“Why would I? To entertain someone else? Or to stop them losing money? Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t joke around with health.”
DamianoTommasi, president of the Italian Footballers’ Association (AIC), agreed, tweeting “the teams to cheer are playing in our hospitals, emergency rooms” and “stopping football is the most useful thing for our country right now”.
In a further statement, the union added: “The signals that the sporting institutions are sending out are terrible.
It’s dangerous to travel to and from the red zones, it’s dangerous to play football, it’s dangerous to shake hands… football isn’t an exception when it comes to the coronavirus.”
The epidemic has also forced the second leg of Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Dortmund to be staged at an empty Parc des Princes today, and the same closed-door policy will apply to the Juventus-Lyon game next Tuesday.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS