Serie A, to restart or not to restart? It looks like a joke. Surely an incredible fiction, especially considering the COVID-19 pandemics numbers as of today, which speak of more than three million people in the world infected by a virus, and not a normal one. This is a silent, aggressive virus. One that surely knows how to take a penalty.
So, to play or not to play? Shall football in Italy come back? Many players and supporters beg for a restart: Let Sundays belong to football again! Others, enjoying some unexpected holidays away from the Belpaese, keep stressing that many of their fellow Serie A colleagues tested positive to the coronavirus.
Some others are just waiting, mostly aligning with their clubs’ stances, and moreover with their bosses – the club presidents. Those same presidents who have been splitting themselves between contrasting standpoints – a consequence of quite a few controversial episodes and many missed chances for dialogue.
On one hand, you have those who, for health’s sake, would rather keep the Serie A suspended. On the other hand, you have those who seem to be putting their own accounts’ health ahead and thus call for a restart – asking local Football Federation President Gabriele Gravina, as well as the Italian press, to take a stand in that direction. Perhaps forgetting that their books should be healthy regardless of the coronavirus.
And yet, a simple look at the pandemics numbers seems to suggest a clear answer: There are no conditions to play. Let’s stress this again: To date, 3,249,022 people have been infected by the COVID-19. 230,804 of them died, and a little more than one million managed to recover. The rest are still fighting, with more than 60,000 being in critical conditions. That should be enough but – if that’s not the case – let’s add that many footballers are still positive to the virus. Those cannot play for sure.
Perhaps – quoting Ciro Immobile – the football world really has the tools and capacity to restart its activities in total safety conditions. But, what kind of message would calcio be sending to those million Italians still locked down at home? If calcio can restart, then why factories and industries should not? And, if players could benefit of the best possible safety measures – would the same be true for stadium employees and media operators? Take a steward, for example, who would be supposed to work even if matches restart with closed doors. Would he be treated the same?
Imagine how hardcore supporters would react to the idea of closed doors. Who can grant that, despite lockdowns and restrictions to movements, they wouldn’t try to gather outside of the stadiums to at least salute their idols? And, should Lazio win the Scudetto or Juventus win the Champions League – how could Gravina prevent thousands of supporters from spontaneously gathering to celebrate?
Without going that far, the calcio decision makers should perhaps think about some other accounts – those of millions of Italian families whose finances were ravaged by the pandemics, with a special attention to those health professionals who keep fighting the virus from the front-line. A simple act of respect towards them should be enough to suggest answering with a loud “NO!” to the idea of restarting the campionato now.
Make no mistake, I do miss football – just like many other fans do. I firmly believe that my team had very good chances to win at least the Coppa Italia this season, but this is a different story. As a calcio fanatic, I’m keeping myself busy by re-watching a few old videos from the glory days of our football. A goal by Alessandro Del Piero, some magic trick by Diego Armando Maradona. You know, the usual stuff. And that is enough for now, as the number of infected people, the death toll, the respect towards those who are still fighting for their lives and the health professionals who are assisting them – all these reasons make me feel that football should stay aside for the time being. Don’t worry, Cristiano Ronaldo’s heroics will be making the headlines again – hopefully, sooner than later.
Perhaps, if the Italian football system cannot afford to stand still even in the face of 28,000 dead in Italy, that is due to the tampered financial statements many clubs recurred to in the past, the huge debts some have accumulated, and the lack of transparency the Italian Football Federation and the Italian Football League have shown in multiple occasions.
Let me ask a question, then: How come has the Serie A become so financially weak, that it must push to play a game as bitter as a World Cup Final lost on penalties?