Coronavirus

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Report: Serie A could resume training May 2, games late in month

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Blanket testing for players and a 14-day quarantine for foreign players are on the menu as Serie A reportedly looks to resume in May.

Football Italia cites a report from Italian news outlet Adnkronos that discusses a May 2 return to training with matches resuming late in the month.

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Vincenzo Spadafora is Italy’s minister for sport, and is hopeful that the worst of the coronavirus is behind the country.

According to the report, any player returning to Italy from abroad would be quarantined for two weeks before returning to training.

After an initial round of testing for all players, more would follow:

More tests would be made weekly to maintain that level of certainty all the way to the end of the season. Clubs are believed to be stocking up on COVID-19 tests, in accordance with medical structures in their cities, ensuring everyone has enough to go around.

The plan may be met with resistance, as combustible Brescia owner Massimo Cellino says his club will not play and has accepted that it earned relegation.

PFA explains position as players urged to take pay cuts

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The Professional Footballers Association is explaining why it has not yet accepted deferred pay cuts during the coronavirus suspension, and the English government is not withholding its opinion.

As non-playing staff accept furloughs or worse across the tiers of English football and players in other European nations accept pay cuts, the PFA has not found an arrangement to its liking.

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Health secretary Matthew Hancock addressed the situation in his daily public briefing.

From Sky Sports:

“Given the sacrifices people are making, including some of my colleagues in the NHS, who have made the ultimate sacrifice and gone into work and caught the disease and have sadly died, I think the first thing Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution; take a pay cut and play their part.”

That’s a heavy statement, one that surely resonates with all.

The PFA issued a post on its site that runs up nearly 1000 words on its position, stating that a big part of its concern is representing League One and League Two players. Those members do not receive the massive pay packets of PL stars.

Basically, what the PFA is requesting is time to make an educated decision considering the books and futures of every club are different. They’d like to see those books to make sure that if players are making a sacrifice that shareholders are as well.

From ThePFA.com:

We fully accept that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak in order to secure the long-term future of their own club and indeed the wider game. Our advice going out to players at this point reflects that expectation.

In addition, the PFA is also expecting to contribute financially to any solutions agreed upon.

Like everyone else in the country, we are trying to deal with a situation that has never been faced. Our spirits have been lifted seeing communities come together to support each other. We have been proud to see many of our own members and clubs step up to support the NHS, to help children who would usually benefit from free school meals, donating to food banks and other charitable donations to those affected by this crisis. Much of this has been done privately and without publicity.

Obviously there will be a resolution to this soon, but it’s a complex and layered situation. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe became the first PL boss to take a voluntary pay cut on Wednesday, with Brighton’s Graham Potter following suit.

UEFA postpones all June international matches amid coronavirus

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Following a meeting of all 55 member nations on Wednesday, UEFA announced the postponement of all June international matches, among a number of other decisions as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc throughout the soccer calendar.

The summer international calendar included the pushed back Euro 2020 qualifying playoffs, but those have now been put on hold indefinitely and it is possible there will be no international games played until September.

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In addition, the Champions League and Europa League competitions have both been suspended indefinitely, no longer tying a potential return to a specific date. Nothing else has been confirmed regarding the competitions, but there are reports swirling that the resumption of the Champions League and Europa League would come with games behind closed doors, potentially all the way through the finals of the competitions.

The European governing body had already pushed back Euro 2020 to next summer in an effort to make room to finish the domestic seasons, but as the coronavirus pandemic continues to linger, questions are mounting over the possibility of finishing all competitions at a later date or if there is simply not enough time. Reports continue to stream in that UEFA significantly favors finishing domestic competitions over all else.

UEFA did announce that all registration deadlines for international club competitions have been suspended indefinitely as well, throwing the summer transfer window into further disarray as well.

“As a result of the increasing uncertainty generated by the ongoing extraordinary events,” UEFA said in its statement, “the Executive Committee also decided to suspend the club licensing provisions that relate to the preparation and assessment of clubs’ future financial information. This decision applies exclusively for participation in the 2020/21 UEFA club competitions.”

Atalanta-Valencia match labeled ‘Game Zero’ by some medical experts

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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.

From The Associated Press:

“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.

Arteta details coronavirus bout, talks coaching Arsenal in isolation

Mikel Arteta
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Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta’s positive coronavirus test was arguably one of the stories that hammered home the path COVID-19 was going to run through the soccer world.

Arteta is now feeling better, and said he was fortunate that his case was not severe. He’s also grateful that his three children under 10 did not catch the virus.

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The Arsenal boss and his wife must know how fortunate they are to have a nanny, as both contracted to the virus before the nanny joined the afflicted.

“Thank God, the kids never got it,” he said via Football.London. “We are all completely fine now. … We could not prevent it in our home. I think it was too late by the time we had the positive test as well. We were reacting and now that’s why I insist that instead of reacting, you have the chance now to stay at home and prevent a lot of situations. We have to do it.”

Arteta also detailed the challenges in running a Premier League club in isolation, but he thinks the homework he’s given his players might get them thinking about the next stage in their careers.

“There are things we have to maintain doing, improve and develop, and individually they are really enjoying the challenge. We might get a few coaches after this virus, or at least a few players that are willing to go down that path because I think they are really enjoying the process.”

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The Premier League is done with game action through at least April 30. The silver lining is even more time for his players to digest Arteta’s plans for the long-term.