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On the mixed emotions of Juventus returning to training

Football could very well be coming back soon, but is the risk worth the reward?


I’ve found it hard to both make things personal and not make things personal during this coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard, a lot of the time, to not interject a personal angle into current-day writing — yes, even more than usual — because it is, honestly, so much easier to get to the point I want to make. But, at the same time, I also know that making it about myself (at least a small part) is a little bit of not reading the room all that well since there are so many more important and worrisome things going on where I live, where you live and where your friends and family live.

But as I saw pictures of Leonardo Bonucci and a shaggy haired Aaron Ramsey rolling up to Juventus Training Center last Tuesday as Juve conducted their first day of individualized training, then Paulo Dybala coming in for tests after getting a clean bill of health later on in the week, things just felt ... a little off in my head.

That’s not because my mind is all over the place. (Even though it usually is most of the time when I’m not working.)

That, honestly, was a few months ago when all of this was starting to get out of control in Italy and the legitimate fear of it taking over the United States — which it has, because that’s what happens when your country isn’t prepared for something of this level to happen.

The curve has, thankfully, flattened in Italy. That’s the good news. The fact that the spread of coronavirus is truly be slowing down in Italy and the country’s lockdown guidelines have start to be eased even in the slightest is a positive development that Italians need just to know that staying inside for so many consecutive weeks has truly paid off.

This, of course, doesn’t mean the pandemic is over by any means. The fear of a second wave of a virus outbreak is real, and it’s something that could very well kick Italy’s ass again if the country isn’t completely serious about adhering to the guidelines set forth earlier this month. And that also means sporting clubs can start to see their players arrive at their respective training grounds to begin working out again — which, obviously, includes Juventus as the 2019-20 Serie A season could very well be restarted at some point in June.

Honestly ... I don’t really know how to feel about it.

Being unplugged from football means — for the most part — there hasn’t been the week-to-week kind of attention to the game that we usually have had around here prior to the early-March suspension of play — has been a relatively nice break. But there’s also the realization more and more every day that this virus is very much a day-to-day kind of situation. And that means as much as Italy thinks things are getting better in the present, there could very well be a spike in cases again two weeks from now after people have been out and about and trying to get the first bit of normalcy back into their lives.

If Serie A play does resume, it will be behind closed doors. That is not in doubt.

The doubt that remains, at least from this corner of the room, is if all of this is truly worth the risk. You know, the risk of more infection among players. The risk of putting coaches and training staff at risk. The risk of trying to finish a season that will have been on pause for three months at the very least when play ever does start back up again.

There are millions and millions of euros at stake in broadcast money, in sponsorship money, and that will obviously be even more critical for clubs to try and secure seeing as there’s going to be no game day income coming their for the next couple of months (and maybe the foreseeable future) if games do happen again. Many teams are motivated by the money to restart play, others are motivated by the notion of competing for a long-awaited Scudetto like Lazio, while some clubs — most notably Brescia — have made it known that restarting play right now might not be the best idea for all parties involved.

It’s just ... tough.

What happens when a player tests positive?

Will the entire team be isolated?

With the schedule likely to be extremely truncated, can the league really afford to postpone further any games if an entire team does go back into quarantine?

There are about as many lingering questions going into all of this as there is information we actually know. And when you’re talking about players’ health and well-being, that never really seems to be a good thing.

As much as we want sports back — believe me, I’m in that camp — the risk that Serie A clubs are willing to take is obvious, just as it is with every other league no matter if it’s in Germany or England or Spain. As much as there’s a France or a Netherlands that decides to pack it all in and tell us that we’ll see them next season, the fact that the possibility of play restarting is being pulled in multiple directions just makes it all the more complicated, all the more likely to be drawn out.

And all the while, you’ve got the players, coaches and staff members who will be the ones putting their health at risk because play will be resumed. Some may want to get back on the field, but who knows who wants to get back on the field under these circumstances with such an unpredictable virus still around.

Sports will come back, and whenever it does there will be plenty of joy to be had.

I just don’t know if right now, with Italy starting to ease restrictions and a second wave of the coronavirus hanging over everything that’s done in the county,