KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: European international football will suffer a first – but certainly not last – fall-out from the rapidly-spreading coronavirus with Internazionale’s 2-1 win on Milan over Ludogorets of Bulgaria in the Europa League being played behind closed doors in the Stadio Meazza in Milan.
The Salzburg-Eintracht Frankfurt tie was postponed but that was because of a storm warning.
Italy is Europe’s worst-hit country so far with 12 deaths and more than 400 cases which have prompted the government and local authorities into dffectively locking down 11 towns and cities in the northern region 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 League second round second leg.
World Cup catch
The Italian national team’s pre-Euro 2020 warm-up friendly against England at Wembley on March 27 is in doubt because of concerns over the risk posed by visiting fans.
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.
Last weekend the Inter-Sampdoria, Atalanta-Sassuolo, Verona-Cagliari and Torino-Parma matches were called off on orders of the sports ministry after a meeting of the Italian government’s council of ministers. Six lower division matches were called off as well dozens of youth and amateur matches.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “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.”