A decision, finally. That’s what every football fan was waiting for, and what the Lega Serie A took to somehow get out of the stalemate caused by the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. Serie A games will be played behind closed doors until April 3, per a decree from the Italian Council of Ministers.
All the league games canceled last weekend will be played between next Sunday and Monday, including the Juventus-Inter showdown – whose final collocation will be Sunday at 8.45 PM, Italy time.
The rest of the games will be distributed as follows: Parma-SPAL at 12.30 PM, Milan-Genoa at 3.00 PM, as well as Sampdoria-Verona. Udinese-Fiorentina will be played at 6.00 PM, just before the Derby d’Ítalia. Sassuolo-Brescia has been postponed further to Monday at 6.30 PM.
That is the outcome of a lively session of the League board council, at the end of which the quarrelsome world of Italian football miraculously regained its unity. At least for the time being.
Even Inter, in the person of CEO Giuseppe Marotta, who had been among the strongest opponents of a closed-door solution, eventually accepted a truce in the name of the greater football good. Rumors, however, report of an animated discussion where clubs that felt more penalized by the fan-less option defended their position to the death.
At that point, League President Paolo Dal Pino is reported to have threatened the clubs to remit the decision to the domestic Football Federation – basically having to admit that the top-flight league presidents were not capable of taking one. That’s when the miracle seems to have happened.
There was only one alternative to playing behind closed doors: Continuing to postpone, with no end to the COVID-19 crisis in sight. An impracticable solution, being the calendar from now until May already extremely congested. That’s why the Italian Government itself, in the person of the newly-established Minister of Sports Vincenzo Spadafora, also pushed for the closed-door option.
The new match program will, therefore, feature a catchup round of last week’s canceled games this weekend, with all other campionato rounds postponed by one week. An additional mid-week round has been scheduled for May 13. Stadiums should re-open on April 4, but it goes without saying that the decision might be revised depending on how the coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold.
Despite the forced, frail agreement, however, two issues are still in need of a solution: First, finding a slot for the canceled Inter-Sampdoria game, for which there seems to be no possible date. Much will depend on how far the Nerazzurri go in the Europa League, but Antonio Conte’s band may be needing to play up to 9 games in the sole month of May.
The other pending issue is related to the Coppa Italia. The second leg games of both Semi-Finals, in the program for this week, were canceled. Those matches could now be played on May 20 – a date originally allocated to the Final. There is no other date available after that, however, as preparations for the European Championship are expected to take over.
The rumored solution, still to be explored and evaluated, is to play the Final during the summer, or even to organize a sort of Final Four tournament featuring the four clubs still in run – Juventus, Milan, Napoli, and Inter. A fascinating option, but which could have a heavy impact on the affected club’s transfer market priorities, especially for those like Milan and Napoli whose participation in the next European season may depend on winning the Coppa Italia.
The Lega Serie A and its querulous bunch still have many problems to solve. But, at least, we’re going to re-start watching some football this weekend, even if only on a TV screen. In an Italian peninsula paralyzed by the fear of the virus, calcio may thus come back to do what it was created for: Making Italians forget their anguishes.