The world of calcio has experienced severe disruptions over the continued outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, more colloquially referred to as coronavirus. Much of this weekend’s slate of Serie A games were supposed to be played behind closed doors until early Saturday morning, when the league opted instead to postpone the affected games — including Juventus’ crunch clash with archrivals Inter — until May, throwing the fixture schedule into a bit of chaos and prompting some hysterical reactions.
But some semblance of normalcy may be peeking its way around all this chaos. According to the latest reports from ANSA (h/t Football Italia), the restrictions on public gatherings and school closures will be lifted in the Piedmont region as of midnight on Sunday. This means Juve’s next scheduled game, the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal against AC Milan, will be played as scheduled with fans in attendance.
There are still a few restrictions on the game. Fans from Emilia Romagna, the Veneto, and Lombardy - the regions where the outbreak remains most severe and the restrictions on public events remain in effect — will not be allowed to attend. That could certainly crimp the ability of Milan fans to go to the game, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
That’s not to say everything is completely normal. Reports today came that the team has ordered the entire Under-23 team into quarantine after three players from Pianese, their most recent opponents in Serie C, tested positive for the virus. None so far have shown signs of infection, but will be kept home until March 8 as a precaution.
The changes in the fixture list have caused consternation in other parts of Serie A, particularly Inter fans, who have been pitching an almighty tantrum since the announcement of the postponement. The decision certainly does put Inter into a somewhat difficult position, producing a severe fixture crunch in May that doesn’t even take into account their match with Sampdoria that was suspended last week due to the outbreak and has yet to be rescheduled.
But Inter fans have taken things a step further, insisting the decision was made to benefit Juve at their expense. They’ve even referred to it as a new calciopoli - which is rich when you consider that their own club’s involvement in that scandal will never be subject to punishment thanks to statutes of limitations. This in spite of the fact that other clubs involved in the affected games, like Udinese, have gone on record as saying they advocated for the change.
The outbreak in Italy is still at a serious stage, but the lifting of restrictions in Piedmont and other regions is at least a sign that some progress is being made in containment. While the return to a state of semi-normalcy is certainly a good sign, it’s obvious that soccer is ultimately trivial in the face of such a crisis. Perhaps the banner that appeared in the Curva B at the Stadio San Paolo in Naples today says it best: “There is no rivalry in tragedy. United against COVID-19.