Mayor of Madrid Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida has said it was a “mistake” for Atletico Madrid fans to travel to Anfield for their Champions League clash with Liverpool despite the country’s growing pandemic last month.
Atletico defeated Jurgen Klopp’s side 3-2 at a packed Anfield in their round-of-16 second-leg match on March 11, the last Champions League fixture to be played with fans present before the competition was suspended.
“It didn’t make any sense that 3,000 Atletico fans could travel to Anfield at that time,” Martinez-Almeida told Onda Cero radio. “It was a mistake.
“Looking back with hindsight, of course, but I think even at that time there should have been more caution. From the day before the game the regional government and Madrid council had already adopted important measures on reducing large gatherings of people.”
On the day that the game was played, the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Meanwhile, schools in Madrid were closed and gatherings of over 1,000 people were banned.
Earlier this month, Liverpool council’s director of public health Matthew Ashton said that the match should not have gone ahead and that it could have explained the rise of the number of cases in the city.
Atalanta‘s Champions League game with Valencia in February has also come under critisicm for being played despite the growing outbreak in Italy. Milan-based intensive care director Luca Lorini said the match acted as a coronavirus accelerator in the Lombardy reigon.
In Spain, La Liga is suspended indefinitely and clubs’ training grounds are closed under the country’s state of emergency, with players training individually at home.
When asked about a return to football matches with fans, Martinez-Almeida said: “During this spring and summer there won’t be any large gatherings of people in Spain and possibly not into the autumn either. Obviously the situation won’t be totally under control and there’ll be the risk of another outbreak.
“We’ll have to change our habits, conduct and behaviour even if we can go out onto the street again. I think it will be really difficult to have large-scale events, whether it’s football matches or other sports or concerts, with almost total certainty before the summer. From the autumn we’ll have to study it carefully.”