They’re calling it Game Zero when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, but could a Champions League match in Italy really be the “biological bomb” that sent COVID-19 through two countries?
Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni and Andrew Dampf wrote a sprawling story of Atalanta’s Round of 16 first leg against Valencia in Milan last month.
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Atalanta is from Bergamo and the match was widely considered the biggest in club history. Around one-third of Bergamo’s population traveled to Milan’s San Siro to catch the event, won 4-1 by the hosts.
Now authorities are wondering whether the match, with thousands of Italians and a number of visiting Spaniards, helped send the virus back west.
“We were mid-February so we didn’t have the circumstances of what was happening,” Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori said this week during a live Facebook chat with the Foreign Press Association in Rome. “If it’s true what they’re saying that the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then it’s very probable that 40,000 Bergamaschi in the stands of San Siro, all together, exchanged the virus between them. As is possible that so many Bergamaschi that night got together in houses, bars to watch the match and did the same. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have known. No one knew the virus was already here. It was inevitable.”
Atalanta won the first leg and then dedicated the second leg to medical workers and suffering people back home, which by then was dealing with an escalating crisis.
A journalist in Valencia attended the game and later became the second person to test positive for COVID-19 in Spain. Valencia center back Ezequiel Garay was one of five club members to test positive for coronavirus as well.
It’s certainly no one’s fault, but the validity of the hypothesis alone shows why experts are begging everyone to abide by social distancing measures.
Atalanta remains hopeful of competing in its first ever UCL quarterfinals should the competition continue later this year.