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How Coronavirus exposed the ugly face of European football

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‘Coronavirus’ is the name of a new reality, a truth which is dictating the new world where people are sent home so that they can stay healthy and come out to work in the future. The virus which is officially called COVID-19 has been categorised as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As of today, March 26, 2020, more than 20,000 people have lost their lives due to the virus which originated from the city of Wuhan in China in December last year whereas more than 400,000 people have been officially infected.

Two of the severely affected countries due to the novel Coronavirus are from Europe—Italy and Spain—where the most number of deaths are recorded.

Digging through the official statistics, both countries have recorded more than 52% of the casualties in the world from COVID-19, and whether we like it or not, football played a criminal role in spreading the virus across Europe.

Unfortunate night in Milan

It was February 19, it was one of the UEFA Champions League nights, it was Atalanta—a club based in the northern part of Italy in Bergamo—who faced Spanish La Liga club Valencia in the first-leg of the round-of-16 in Europe’s elite club competition at the historic San Siro. By then, Italy’s total number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus was just three, as per Worldometer.

However, what followed after that night was an unimaginable outbreak of a virus which has now killed more than 7,500 people in Italy alone.

Bergamo’s Mayor Giorgio Gori was quoted by the Guardian as saying that football match on February 19 brought a nightmare on a country who had one of the best medical systems in the world.

According to Gori, about 40,000 fans travelled 40 Kilometers to Milan to attend the match and had some of the COVID-19 patients within them who were asymptomatic.

Those people not only attended the match in the stadium but visited bars and engaged in the social gathering, something which is opposite to what is recommended during a time when the world is facing such a contagious virus.

Gori’s claim about the football match proving to be a ‘bomb’ in increasing the number of cases of COVID-19 in the region is being backed by the official statistics as well wherein the two weeks from that match, the total number of officially confirmed patients went from just three in Italy on February 19 to 3,089 on March 4, 2020, and today it stands at 74,386.

From there on, the country with one of the oldest population in the world just never looked like controlling the outbreak.

Italy was not the only affected country from that unfortunate night as the match had visitors from Spain as well where Valencia fans travelled more than 1,000 kilometres to support their team at the San Siro.

And it was no surprise that the majority of the early cases in Spain were from Valencia whereas the majority of the first confirmed cases in La Liga were also of Valencia players.

That all could’ve been avoided had UEFA took things seriously and followed the other sporting bodies who were postponing the events in the wake of Coronavirus, but instead, they went ahead with the events believing some sort of immunity and were more focused towards achieving their financial objectives.

UEFA was not the only body who showed complacency at the time of global pandemic as there was an equal sort of arrogance showed by the Premier League and the German Bundesliga.

Both bodies refused to follow the path of making sure the safety of the audience as well as the players and held matches thinking nothing could go wrong, mainly citing that they will face huge financial loses if the games are either postponed or played behind the closed doors.

European football’s ugly face in time of crisis

It is often said that the reality of someone becomes clear when there is a time of adversity, and European football has truly shown their ugly face in the time of crisis.

It is becoming increasingly clear that clubs will take some financial hit with all the leagues in the continent have been postponed pretty much indefinitely.

However, it is also clear that the majority who will going to suffer during these crises are the lower league clubs, where the main source of income is the gate money.

As of today, there have been no powerhouse in European football who came forward and announced a plan to support lower league clubs to overcome such difficult times.

Instead, some of the owners and club’s hierarchies have been quoted saying blatantly that they want to restart football as soon as possible to reduce their own damages, that too despite having a turnover of hundreds of millions of Euros per year.

“We have overcome many pandemics and crises before. We will overcome this one, too. The question is how large a price we will pay,” were the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday and as optimistic that may have sound, it is also true that the people living on this planet have shown time and again the courage to overcome such crisis.

However, once this will be all over, questions should be asked to the authorities in the football governing bodies about their criminal negligence at a time when nothing mattered more than saving human lives.

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Premier league

Rashford edging closer to full fitness: I feel 10 times better now

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He has been out since mid-January but Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford says he is edging closer to a return to training.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is in a “much better place” than a month ago as he nears a return to full fitness.

Rashford has been out since mid-January due to a back injury, with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying earlier this month the club would not rush his comeback.

The England international is making good progress, though, and suggests he will be ready to resume training once the squad are cleared to go back to work after the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel much better,” Rashford told Sky Sports News. “I have a scan in another couple of days and that should solidify it, but I feel much better compared to two or three weeks ago.

“I feel 10 times better now. For me, now it’s just about getting ready to build back up to training and then playing games for the team.

“I’m in a much better place. I’m much happier than I was about a month ago, so things are looking positive.”

 

Rashford says his recent rehabilitation has been carried out at home due to the restrictions put in place to control the impact of COVID-19.

“Everyone is just dealing with the circumstances as well as they can,” he added.

“I’ve just been in my house doing my gym work and recovery, reading books, watching Netflix and just doing what I can do to make the time pass further.

“There’s not really anything you can do that comes close to being in the changing room and being in the team, so I’m not trying to chase that high.

“I had to have time off anyway because of my injury, but I’m fortunate enough to have a bike in the gym downstairs. Not much in that sense has actually changed for me because I can still do my daily routine that I was doing.”

Rashford is also heading up a campaign for the FareShare charity, which aims to raise £100,000 to help supply food to children who usually have free school meals but are currently unable to access them.

“I didn’t know how high the numbers were of kids not eating at home other than school meals. That number kind of shocked me,” Rashford said.

“And then I remember speaking to a friend who was saying there was an opportunity where we can help these people and FareShare allowed us to make it work.

“I don’t think I’ve actually ever done something at such short notice before. I thought let’s try and get to £100,000 and right now we’re on £97,000.”

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Coronavirus: Brady admits Liverpool all but own title, reveals West Ham have eight in isolation

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Karren Brady has revealed West Ham have eight players showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 – and has made a U-turn over the 2019-20 season.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has gone back on her previous claim that the season should be voided, saying the title is “all but owned by Liverpool” as the the Premier League aims to return to action.

Brady was criticised earlier this month for suggesting in a newspaper column that the top-flight campaign in England should be declared null and void due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

She was accused of putting her own club’s interests first, with the Hammers only outside the Premier League relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.

Her suggestion riled Liverpool supporters in particular, given the expectation they will claim their first league title in 30 years should the season be completed.

She defended her initial comments, saying she was merely thinking of players and fans amid the coronavirus pandemic, but has now said the Premier League plan to “get going as soon as possible” still stands.

“It is a paradox that at a time football would be a great comfort to millions, it must not be played because, rightly, people’s health is our priority,” Brady wrote in The Sun.

 

“What is going on in our country and the world is unprecedented and the game is not a necessity – like food or healthcare.

“But to millions upon millions of us, football’s disappearance from life is very relevant indeed. So, we all want it back in a hurry.

“There’s the Premier League to be decided although, obviously, not the title – which is all but owned by Liverpool.

“But neither the Premier League nor the EFL have finished this season’s games. Plus, there is the FA Cup, continental leagues, European competitions, European Championship and almost everything in between.

“The next Premier League meeting is on Friday and the main topic of conversation will be when games can restart. When we – all Premier League clubs – last spoke, we agreed to get going again as soon as possible. And that games will run into July, if req­uired, to get this campaign finished.

“This is the plan. This is what we want to deliver.”

Brady also revealed eight West Ham players went into self-isolation after showing mild symptoms of the virus.

“Players are currently not in training and housebound to comply with social distancing rules currently in place until April 13, when we expect training to restart,” she added.

“And following further Government guidelines, we have eight West Ham players in isolation. Although I am relieved to say they are all showing mild symptoms and, along with their families, seem to be well.”

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Liverpool v Atletico going ahead was a ‘criminal act’

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Carlo Ancelotti has revealed Jurgen Klopp had concerns over the decision for Liverpool v Atletico Madrid to go ahead at a full Anfield.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp felt staging the Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Anfield without restrictions earlier this month was a “criminal act”, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Everton head coach Ancelotti has spoken with Klopp amid the coronavirus pandemic and said the German had concerns over his side’s continental fixture going ahead in front of a full stadium on March 11.

Liverpool went out of the Champions League after the second leg of their last-16 tie ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat, their last match before top-level football was widely halted due to the outbreak.

Ancelotti told Corriere dello Sport: “I heard from Klopp the other day, he told me that going ahead with the game in those conditions was a criminal act. I think he was right.”

Former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Milan boss Ancelotti predicts there will be an economic “downsizing” after the virus has passed, with football feeling the effects of that.

“We are all living a life that we were not used to and that will change us profoundly,” he said. “I’m sure we will all have to downsize, starting with football.

“Today, the priority is health, limiting the contagion. When you start again, when you finish, the dates – believe me, I don’t care. At the moment, that’s the last thing on my mind.

“I hear talk about cutting salaries, suspension of payments. They seem like inopportune solutions.

“Soon the economy will change, and that’s at all levels: The TV rights will be less, players and coaches will earn less, tickets will cost less because people will have less money.

“I repeat, what matters now is to fight the virus effectively. Then, of course, if it will be possible to continue the season… otherwise, amen.”

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