‘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.
EPL players left divided over keeping Black Lives Matter slogan on shirts
Premier League players are divided on whether to keep the Black Lives Matter (BLM) slogan on their shirts and have left a decision on the sensitive issue until just days before the new season. The Premier League has said the decision rests with the players, whose views will be aired at a pre-season meeting of the club captains this week. The Mail on Sunday understands that some players want to continue with the slogan. The representative of one BAME player indicated that the individual in question felt ‘very strongly’ about the slogan’s part in the ongoing fight against bigotry and two lead. But several sources have said that players are aware of the controversy the message attracted last season when the BLM message was hijacked by a group of extreme activists. They do not want to put themselves at the centre of an ongoing controversy and feel that would be counter-productive. There will be a wish to ensure that black and minority ethnic players are given a strong voice in the decision. Yet only two of the 20 Premier League captains are BAME: Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Leicester City’s Wes Morgan, who also sits on the league’s Black Participants Advisory Group. Kick it Out last week reported 446 incidences of abuse during the 2019-20 season – a 42 per cent increase on the previous campaign – and the organisation’s head of development Troy Townsend said last night that he hoped the shirt slogan would be kept for the new season. He said: ‘We should not let people hijack it. It’s a message through which players have taken it upon themselves to show solidarity to their teammates – not a political message – and it’s cheap to align that to some political movement. Unfortunately, the decision has come down to the wire but I think the captains will drive the message of solidarity. I hope they are not spoken down.’ Both Townsend and Kick it Out chairman Sanjay Bhandari said that nothing had changed since the death of George Floyd in the US on May 25 became a catalyst for the show of solidarity in which Premier League players decided to wear the BLM message instead of their names on shirts. Bhandari said: ‘Racial injustice and inequality didn’t just finish at the end of the season. The players’ greatest power is to push for change and how they do that should be driven by them.’ A decision has been left to the last minute because players have only just returned to training. But it is a more complex one than the decision on whether to take knee – which is set to continue when the new season starts. The Premier League Black Lives Matter logo – designed by Alisha Hosannah, partner of the Watford striker Troy Deeney – was intended simply to send the message that it is unacceptable to treat black people differently to anyone else. But a series of tweets from a ‘Black Lives Matter UK’ account included anti-Israel messages, with calls to de-fund the police and remove Met Commissioner Cressida Dick. The group’s Twitter feed has hijacked the distinctive black and yellow colour scheme of the original US campaign and has built 77,000 followers, with a crowdfunding campaign which has attracted donations of more than £1million. The group has refused to disclose whom its leaders are. Some players feel strongly that this extreme fringe group should not be allowed to block a message which many feel strongly about. Bhandari said: ‘The sentiments of the Black Lives Matter movement mean different things in different countries. In the context of British football, we want to see more black coaches, more Asian players, boardrooms that are not all white and all male and reductions in discrimination and an end to online hate. What we now have to do is translate gestures into action because gestures on their own are meaningless.’ Townsend cited the boycotts staged by NBA and NFL stars and tennis player Naomi Osaka over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, as evidence of the need to maintain solidarity here. ‘The level of protest has only progressed since the end of last season,’ he said. The Premier League issued a statement when the rogue group’s activities came to light, saying it was ‘aware of the risk posed by groups that seek to hijack popular causes to promote their own political views’ and that ‘these actions are entirely unwelcome and are rejected.’ A compromise on the Black Lives Matter slogan would be the introduction of an alternative type of anti-racism messaging on shirts, though the imminent start of the season creates little time to design and agree on one. Logistically, it is not a problem that the decision will be reached possibly 72 hours before the first games of the new campaign. Two shirts must be prepared for each player in the 30-man squads and the task of embossing either players’ names or a slogan is one day’s work for Premier League clubs’ kit staff.
Man United captain Harry Maguire released from Greek police custody
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire was released from Greek police custody Saturday, TV footage showed, pending a hearing on assault charges on the island of Mykonos.
Local TV footage showed Maguire leaving a courthouse on neighbouring Syros island, apparently accompanied by members of his legal team, and boarding a dark minivan.
His lawyer Constantinos Darivas had earlier told Greek sports website gazzetta.gr that the England centre-back had denied the charges, and was in “fine condition” despite spending two nights in detention since his Thursday night arrest.
Greek TV channel Mega said Maguire’s father had flown to Greece to be at his son’s side.
The case is being heard on the island of Syros, the administrative hub of the Cycladic island group that includes Mykonos.
The local prosecutor is expected to set a date for the hearing.
The £80 million (88 million euros) defender was arrested late Thursday after what Greek police described as an “altercation” between two groups of British tourists on Mykonos.
Mega said Maguire had become enraged after someone in the other group struck his sister.
A Greek police statement on Friday said that three men aged 27, 28 and 29 had been arrested in Mykonos.
The police said an officer was punched on the scene, and that a second fight had broken out at the local police station where the three men “strenuously resisted (arrest), pushing and striking three officers.”
The suspects are accused of assault, resisting arrest, verbally insulting and threatening the arresting officers, and attempted bribery, the police said.
Four Mykonos officers sustained slight injuries in the fracas, the authorities said.
Mykonos is popular with sports stars and celebrities for its all-night nightlife and beaches.
United on Friday said in a brief statement they were “aware of an alleged incident involving Harry Maguire in Mykonos last night.”
“Contact has been made with Harry, and he is fully co-operating with the Greek authorities.
“At this time we will be making no further comment,” the club added.
United’s 2019/20 season ended Sunday in a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in the Europa League semi-finals.
But the club will be back in pre-season training in two weeks and could begin the new Premier League campaign in less than a month.
On Monday, Maguire had tweeted after the elimination: “Time to go away, reflect, recover and be ready to come back stronger next season.”
Premier league: Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang close to signing a new contract at Arsenal.
Gabon international Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is set to sign a new contract extension with Arsenal football club, despite speculations linking him out of the club.
With the deal said to be a reality, The Athletic’s David Ornstein believes there is still work to be done with regards to the deal.
The 31 year old was tipped to leave this summer with less than a year left on his current deal, the north London outfit are keen to tie down the Gabon international to a new long-term deal at the Emirates.
According to The Express, the 31 year old is set for a new lucrative contract to see his wage jump from £250,000 to £ 300,000 per week.
The Arteta factor also appears to be key in the players future as the relationship between the two have been positive, causing a change of mind on his future.
With such positives, the Arsenal chiefs are keen to reward his efforts with a pay rise, and are believed to be in current talks with the forward.
Aubameyang scored a total of 29 goals this season with two coming at the FA cup final, that gave the gunners their 14 FA cup in their history. He was also votted Arsenal’s player of the year after his brilliant season.
However, the forward has not yet put pen to paper with uncertainty surrounding his future but there is still light at the end of the tunnel as Aubameyang’s brother willy Aubameyang has hinted on social media that, he is ready to sign on a new deal at the club.
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