Although I was only 8 years old at the time, and hence too young to truly grasp the gravity of the event, I think that the last time people (or Americans at least) were all singularly focused on one thing was the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, has been top of mind (and conversation) of almost every single human being on the planet. It is certainly one of the most remarkable experiences of my brief 27 years of life on this planet. Tragically, it has resulted in the death of over 46,000 people worldwide (at the time of writing) and essentially caused the stoppage of all aspects of everyday life.
Yes, that includes football.
Given the circumstances, I did my best to write something of a decent-ish review, but, obviously, it’s going to be very short. Onwards.
The Sound of Silence
The only game to report of in March — it really seems like it was a million years ago — was the Derby d’Italia between Juventus and Inter at Allianz Stadium. Given that Italy was just about to enter the darkest phase of its battle with COVID-19 and go into lockdown, the game was played behind closed doors.
Pandemic or no pandemic, fans or no fans, the natural balance of power between the two teams was maintained. Juventus played one of its finest — and very possibly the last — games of the 2019-20 season against Antonio Conte’s team as Inter were run ragged that early-March Sunday evening. Playing Rodrigo Bentancur in a regista position in place of Miralem Pjanic proved to be an inspired decision as the Juventus midfield flowed like water.
Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey scored his third Serie A goal this season after good buildup play resulted in a low, driven Blaise Matuidi cross, a minor scramble in the box, and a deflected Ramsey shot going past goalkeeper Samir Handanovic into goal: 1-0. Paulo Dybala then made it 2-0 after a perfectly-weighted long ball by Bentancur was even more perfectly taken down by La Joya, who then weaved his way towards goal, exchanged a quick one-two with Ramsey, left a hapless Ashley Young behind in the dust thanks to a brilliant fake, and finished his mesmerizing display with the outside of his left boot: 2-0.
Despite Mattia De Sciglio’s best attempts late in the game, it finished with the 2-0 scoreline. What will quite possibly be Juve’s last game of the season finished in the best (and most normal) fashion possible: victory over Inter.
(Note: Juventus Women had no games in March as women’s football was preparing to head into an international break just as the pandemic began to surge in Italy.)
In addition to the public health impact, one of the most devastating consequences of the pandemic is that money has essentially stopped changing hands in every country in the world. The same is the case in the football industry. Clubs have been forced to either cut salaries, furlough staff or fire employees altogether. Thankfully, players at some of the biggest clubs in the world have volunteered to reduce or defer their wages, including Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, Juventus, Borussia Monchengladbach, and many more.
Unfortunately, some clubs have already collapsed as a result of the financial strain of the crisis, while others have decided (somewhat controversially) to furlough their non-playing staff — regular folk like you and me — while still paying players. As I always tell my friends, the worst crises bring out the very best and the very worst of humanity (or, as The Warm-Up aptly notes, it shows “the moral vacuums” of the world).
Nevertheless, FIFA has taken note of this worrying situation. Reports came out that the organization is discussing plans to tap into its $2.7 billion reserves in order to provide “a ‘Football Marshall plan’ to deal with the financial fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.” This plan follows a series of government (and IMF) stimulus plans all over the world.
But will it work? Will it financially rescue football clubs, particularly the least affluent ones?
I pray it does.
I don’t know.
It was difficult to write this month’s review because, well, the entire world — not just the football/sporting one — has essentially come to a standstill. Bigger things are going on in the world as hundreds of thousands battle with this illness and millions have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their businesses.
I hope that next month I’ll be able to give you more positive, hopeful, and, most importantly, football-related news. But lest you worry, remember one thing.