A month ago Francesco Caputo scored a brace and showed a well-wishing sign as Sassuolo beat Brescia 3-0 in the last Serie A match before Italian football was halted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The cardboard that Caputo displayed for TV cameras in the empty Mapei Stadium on March 9 read: “All will be well, stay home.”
Italy’s tally of Covid-19 deaths approached 18,000, more than any other country. Despite these figures — and the latest day tally of 525 deaths — Caputo’s hopes were not entirely off the mark.
After a month-long lockdown, experts agree that casualties could have been twice as many had no measures been taken, as stated Saturday by Franco Locatelli, the president of the High council of health.
Despite keeping deaths and reported infections at a lower level, authorities are set to extend the lockdown through April, warning that ignoring it could revive the epidemic.
The prospect of games without fans and training complicated by sanitary restrictions has, meanwhile, led rugby, basketball and volleyball to call off their seasons, assigning no titles.
But the Serie A, where 16 players have tested positive for the Sars-CoV-2 virus, is still debating its future, with financial matters far more crucial than in other team sports.
Rigorous medical controls before a possible restart are already being arranged by the Italian federation of sports doctors.
After all, the spectre of total losses of around 700mn euros (760mn dollars) in case the league’s last 12 rounds are cancelled, has several clubs in panic.
But champions Juventus, who top the chart one point clear of Lazio, rather flexed their muscles Wednesday in the words of John Elkann, who chairs the BIanconeri’s controlling company Exor and is cousin of club president Andrea Agnelli.
“Juventus go into the next phase of their development with a strong position in the European arena,” Elkann said in a message to Exor stakeholders.
Juve have already agreed with footballers on suspending wages from March to June, saving about 90mn euros in the current fiscal year, with cuts to be negotiated in case of resumption.
The Lega Serie A on Monday agreed that the other 19 clubs adopt Juve’s approach, but the plan only enraged footballers and coaches and looks set to be superseded by individual, or by club, negotiations.
The cancel-or-resume debate, however, showed the Lega’s traditional fractiousness.
Although sporting activities are still blocked across the country, Lazio president Claudio Lotito this week announced that the camp at Formello has been fully sanitised and made ready for training sessions.
“I want to stress that the health of citizens and employees should never be disregarded,” said Lotito, who also suggested antibody tests for players.
“If you stop (a footballer) for two months you create an athletic slump, and a physical damage too,” he said.
Some feel that Lotito is trying to get the most from his squad’s second place, an impression voiced by Brescia boss Massimo Cellino, who said he is firmly against a restart.
Brescia, lying west of Milan and Bergamo, is part of Italy’s most plagued area, which has been felt by the community and the team.
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