Serie A descended into chaos on Sunday as the league looked set to be suspended before a last-minute U-turn meant it continued amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Parma’s match with SPAL, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. GMT (7:30 a.m. ET) was suspended just before kickoff amid political wrangling over the virus that has gripped the country and sporting events worldwide.
The players were in the tunnel and due to walk out on to the pitch before being told to go back to their respective dressing rooms. Some players were already on the bench and had to walk back from the pitch to find out what was going on.
There were calls from the Players’ Association President Damiano Tommasi and Italy’s Sporting Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to suspend the league but Parma’s match with SPAL eventually went ahead with a proposed kick-off time of 12:45 p.m. GMT (8.45 a.m. ET).
Football in Serie A is set to be staged behind closed doors until April 3 following the coronavirus outbreak.
Italian Players’ Association President Tommasi had written to the country’s Prime Minister and the Italian Football Association (FIGC) calling for Serie A to be suspended. Italy’s Sporting Minister Spadafora had also backed a suspension.
“This morning I wrote to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora, CONI President Giovanni Malagò, FIGC President Gabriele Gravina, Lega Serie A President Paolo Dal Pino, Lega Serie B President Mauro Balata and Lega Pro President Francesco Ghirelli,” Players’ chief Tommasi wrote on Twitter.
“Stopping football is the most useful action for the country at this moment. The teams we should be cheering on are playing in our hospitals and emergency centres.”
Sporting Minister Spadafora said: “It makes no sense at this moment, while we ask our citizens for enormous sacrifices to prevent the spread of the contagion, to risk the health of players, referees, coaches, fans who will certainly gather to see games, just to protect the interests that revolve around the sport.
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“Other Federations have wisely decided to suspend football for the next few days. I think it is the duty of the FIGC President Gabriele Gravina to reflect again, without waiting for the first case of a Serie A player infected, before taking on this very serious responsibility.”
Lazio led Serie A at the start of the day on 62 points, two ahead of Juventus. Reigning champions Juve are due to face third-place Inter Milan later on Sunday — the original fixture was postponed due to coronavirus — but sources have told ESPN both clubs are waiting for Serie A to officially confirm whether the match will go ahead.
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is a new strain of coronavirus that has surged around the globe in recent months. The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory diseases. Flu is caused by a different virus. There is no vaccine for coronavirus, though researchers are working on one and hope to begin testing soon.
Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are most at risk. The coronavirus spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes, though it also can be transferred from surfaces.
The best way to prevent infection is by frequent hand-washing, cleaning surfaces with regular household sprays and wipes, and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.