KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Thursday’s Europa League tie between Internazionale and Ludogorets of Bulgaria must be played behind closed doors as coronavirus concerns began to affect European football’s club competitions.
Eleven deaths and more than 220 cases have been registered in northern Italy where the government and local authorities are rushing out extreme levels of control of travel and public gatherings to try to contain the spread.
Five Serie A matches this coming weekend will also be staged in empty stadia. This includes the ‘Derby d’Italia‘ between Juventus and Inter in Turin who are first and third in Serie A.
Four of last Sunday’s Serie A matches were postponed while officials of Atalanta, from Bergamo in northern Italy, have said it is not certain whether they can fly to Valencia in two weeks’ time for their Champions Leaghue second round second leg..
Aready coronavirus concerns have hit the qualifying competition for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. China have had to switch their two upcoming games to a neutral venue.
They will play their home match against Maldives on March 26 at the Chang Arena, Buriram in Thailand. The same venue will also stage China’s away tie against Guam on March 31.
Back in Italy the Inter-Sampdoria, Atalanta-Sassuolo and Verona-Cagliari matches were called off on Saturday on orders of the sports ministry after a meeting of the Italian government’s council of ministers. Subsequently Sunday’s Torino-Parma match fell victim to emergency control measures.
On Saturday a Serie B match between Ascoli and Cremonese was postponed because the visitors come from Lombardy.
Five Serie C matches were called off: Giana-Como, Lecco-Pro Patria, Arzignano-Padova, Piacenza-Sambenedettese and Feralpisalò-Carpi as well as around 30 youth and amateur matches in the Lombardy region. Some of the matches concerned may also have to be played behind closed doors eventually.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told a press conference after Saturday’s council meeting: “The Minister of Sports intends to suspend all sporting events in the Veneto and Lombardy regions.
“With an emergency decree we are widening responsibility for the competent authorities and ministers to take further measures, which do not concern only areas with outbreaks but also the rest the national territory.
“The Minister of Sport [Vincenzo Spadafora] has already announced the determination to suspend all sporting events scheduled for tomorrow [Sunday] in Lombardy and Veneto.
“I am sorry for the fans of football and other sports who were planning to go to these matches but this is the only responsible decision. ”
Not only football
The postponement of the Inter-Sampdoria game and other measures was confirmed by the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala.
He said: “On the instructions of the Council of Ministers lessons are being suspended in universities, while for schools the competent ministry has not ordered restrictive measures other than the suspension of school trips. The Inter-Sampdoria match will be postponed, as will all other scheduled sporting events. ”
Spadafora passed on the order in an official letter to Giovanni Malagò, the president of CONI, the Italian Olympic committee which governs sport in Italy.
Saturday’s Ascoli-Cremonese match in Serie B was called off only one hour before the scheduled kickoff with both teams already in the stadium.