Serie A: Parma-SPAL match kicks off despite Italy Sports Minister's call to suspend games over coronavirus outbreak

Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top football division.

The Associated Press March 08, 2020 19:08:30 IST
Serie A: Parma-SPAL match kicks off despite Italy Sports Minister's call to suspend games over coronavirus outbreak
  • Parma-Spal, the first match of the day, kicked off after a 75-minute delay inside an empty stadium

  • Officials considered an appeal from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora minutes before the scheduled start

  • Spadafora said he supported a call from Italian football players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting players at risk amid the virus outbreak

Rome: Serie A played on Sunday despite calls from Italy’s sports minister and players’ association president to suspend the games in Italy’s top football division.

Parma-SPAL, the first match of the day, kicked off after a 75-minute delay inside an empty stadium as officials considered an appeal from sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora minutes before the scheduled start.

Serie A ParmaSPAL match kicks off despite Italy Sports Ministers call to suspend games over coronavirus outbreak

Parma players warm up in the build-up to their fixture against SPAL. AP

Spadafora said he supported a call from Italian football players’ association president Damiano Tommasi to avoid putting players at risk amid the virus outbreak.

“It doesn’t make sense right now, when we’re requesting enormous sacrifices of our citizens in order to stop the spread of contagion, to put at risk the health of the players, referees, coaches and fans — who will surely get together to watch the games," Spadafora said.

“I think (federation president Gabriele) Gravina should have some additional consideration without waiting for the first case of contagion, before assuming this serious responsibility,” Spadafora added.

Five Serie A matches were scheduled for Sunday, beginning with Parma vs Spal at 12:30 local time (1130 GMT) and concluding with Juventus vs Inter Milan at 8:45 pm (1945 GMT). All of the matches had already been postponed from last weekend.

Parma and Spal players were ready to come onto the field at Ennio Tardini stadium in Parma when they received the news of Spadafora’s call for a suspension. The players then turned around and returned to their changing rooms.

Substitutes, who were already on the bench, also got up and rejoined their teammates in the changing rooms.

Then 45 minutes later, the players came back out to warm up again and the match began at 1:45 pm (1245 GMT).

Workers inside the stadium wore masks over their faces, while streaming service DAZN showed the game with commentary from announcers based inside a Milan studio.

Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its population in a bid to halt the new coronavirus' relentless march across Europe.

Shortly after midnight, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree affecting 16 million people in the country's prosperous north, including the Lombardy region and at least 14 provinces in neighbouring regions. The extraordinary measures will be in place until 3 April.

Italy on Saturday reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases since its outbreak began on 21 February. The number of infected people rose 1,247 in the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 5,883. Italy’s death toll rose to 233.

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