The head of an Italian football club based at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic in Brescia said it was time to cancel the Serie A season because of “the plague”.
The top Italian league’s basement dwellers are destined for relegation — should the matches ever play out to their logical end in May.
No ball has been kicked in anger in the football-mad country since March 9 because of an outbreak that bore down on Italy from China last month.
The nation of 60 million is under a lockdown that could well run for many more weeks.
Schools are not expected to reopen until after the summer. Stores may be shuttered for many weeks. The government ordered huge factories to suspend their operations Saturday night.
Yet some Italian clubs with title aspirations are thinking of resuming practise in preparation for possible matches behind closed doors.
The idea created understandable interest in an Italian sports media market starved of anything to write about — or debate.
It also prompted Brescia president Massimo Cellino to bluntly tell those thinking of playing during a national crisis that has killed close to 5,000 people in Italy to focus on saving lives.
“Life first. Life, damn it,” the 63-year-old businessman told the Corriere dello Sport in a frank interview.
“Everything has to be moved to the next season. It is time for realism, gentlemen. This is the plague,” Cellino said.
– ‘Lunacy’ –
Brescia is one of the cities in Italy’s northern Lombardy region around Milan most heavily hit by the new infectious disease.
Lombardy’s death toll shot past 3,000 on Saturday.
The region’s 12-percent mortality rate among those officially infected is much higher than anything reported out of China’s Hubei province at the peak of its outbreak this year.
None of the teams based in the region have expressed an interest in playing any time soon.
This is not the case for those based around Rome or playing in southern regions that have been relatively spared in the first month of an outbreak that has now spread around the world.
The capital region’s Lazio — just a point behind perennial champions Juventus — have said they wanted to start training as early as Monday.
Italian media speculate they might postpone it until after the ban on public gatherings formally expires on Wednesday.
Sixth-placed Napoli also aired plans to start practise next week.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has already indicated that all the national bans and closures will be extended for weeks if not months.
Torino club president Urbano Cairo told Italian media it was “lunacy” to be thinking about football during what Conte on Saturday called Italy’s biggest disaster since World Way II.
Cairo said clubs from region that had managed to largely avoid the outbreak were “foolish to argue (for a resumption) based on contagion data”.
Napoli’s southern Campania region has recorded only 22 deaths.
“Saying my region has no problem, when the situation is constantly changing, makes no sense,” Cairo said.
Brescia’s Cellino agreed.
“This season is finished. Anyone who wants this cursed (title), take it. It is closed. Finished,” the club president said.
And I am not saying this because Brescia are last in the standings.”
Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira To Join Daniel Ek’s Bid To Buy Arsenal
Swedish billionaire Daniel Ek is set to launch a takeover bid for Arsenal with the help of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, and Patrick Vieira.
Ek, co-founder, and chief executive of music streaming service Spotify, has enlisted three of Arsenal’s legendary ‘Invincibles’ to help him purchase the club from current owner Stan Kroenke.
Ek first expressed an interest in buying Arsenal last week, after fans protested outside the Emirates Stadium against Kroenke’s ownership and his involvement in the failed breakaway European Super League.
“As a kid growing up, I’ve cheered for @Arsenal as long as I can remember. If KSE would like to sell Arsenal I’d be happy to throw my hat in the ring,” Ek tweeted on Friday.
Ek is worth £3.38bn (€4.7bn), according to Forbes, and was named the most influential person in the music business by American magazine Billboard in 2017.
At this stage, it is not known how much the 38-year-old is willing to bid for Arsenal.
However, Arsenal director Josh Kroenke has told fans that his family has “no intention” of selling the club.
Speaking last week at a fans’ forum following the collapse of the European Super League venture, Kroenke said the club was not for sale but that they would work harder to engage with fans more effectively in the future.
Henry, Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer, joined his former manager Arsene Wenger in publicly criticising the club’s ownership last week.
“I do not recognise my club and what happened just now, with them trying to join a league that would have been closed, makes no sense to me,” Henry told the Telegraph.
“They have been running the club like a company, not a football club, and they showed their hand.
“Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of the core football values and maybe the money was too big of a temptation. But whatever it was, they got it wrong. Badly wrong.
“I was genuinely shocked like most people and couldn’t believe what was unfolding.
“I have never talked before, but what happened recently made me realise fans, this is your club. It is your club and I’m an Arsenal fan too.
“I’m proud of what the fans achieved. Not just Arsenal fans, all the fans. The result was a victory for football.”
Shearer, Henry Seal Maiden Induction Into Premier League Hall Of Fame
Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have been announced as the first players to be named in the Premier League Hall of Fame.
Former Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers striker Shearer remains the leading goalscorer in the competition’s history, having scored 260 times across 14 seasons for both clubs.
A champion with Blackburn in 1994-95, Shearer scored 112 goals in 138 Premier League games for Rovers before a move to boyhood side Newcastle for £15million in 1996, breaking the world transfer record.
The former England captain, who won the Golden Boot three times, went on to net 148 goals in 303 league games for the Magpies and remains the only player to have scored 100 Premier League goals for two different clubs.
“When you look at some of the unbelievable players to have graced the Premier League – week in, week out, year in, year out – I feel very honoured to join the Hall of Fame. I have to thank all of my teammates, as well as the managers and coaches that I’ve worked with,” said Shearer.
“All I ever wanted to be was a professional footballer. It was my dream to do that, my dream to win trophies, and my dream to score at St James’ Park, to wear the number nine black-and-white shirt and it was fantastic. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Henry is sixth on the all-time goalscoring list in the competition, having hit a club-record 175 in just 258 games for Arsenal.
The ex-France star, a record four-time Golden Boot winner, scored more than 20 goals in five consecutive seasons from 2001 until he left for Barcelona in 2006.
Twice a title-winner with the Gunners, including in the unbeaten ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003-04, Henry also registered 74 assists in the competition. His tally of 20 in 2002-03 remains a joint record for a single season, with Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne matching that tally in 2019-20.
“To be inducted alongside Alan Shearer as the two first inductees into the Premier League Hall of Fame is more than special,” Henry said.
“When I was young, I was just trying to make sure I could get a pair of boots and now we’re talking about the Hall of Fame. During my career, I wanted to play hard and make sure I was fighting for the cause, because that’s all the fans want to see.
“If you asked me at the start of my career about entering the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s an amazing honour.”
Frappart To Be First Woman To Officiate At Men’s Euro
France’s Stephanie Frappart is set to become the first woman to officiate at a men’s European Championship after UEFA named her as a fourth official for Euro 2020 on Wednesday.
Frappart has already achieved several firsts for female officials, having been the first woman to referee a match in Ligue 1, and in the Champions League last December for a group-stage game between Juventus and Dynamo Kiev.
“For the first time, a female official has been selected for a men’s Euro. Stephanie Frappart (France), who has officiated at several matches in UEFA’s men’s club and national team competitions this season… will be acting as fourth official at matches,” UEFA said.
Each refereeing team at the event will consist of a referee, two assistant referees, a fourth official, a reserve assistant referee at the stadium, and a team of four video match officials.
The tournament, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, will run from June 11 to July 11.
The 37-year-old Frappart was also the first female referee of a major men’s European game, for the 2019 UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea.