Italy’s Sports Minister, Vincenzo Spadafora has provided reassurances (without much basis in fact) that Serie A season is not at risk, a day after a blockbuster fixture of the season did not take place because of confusion over coronavirus protocols.
On Sunday, Napoli failed to show up for their game against Juventus in Turin as their local health authority (ASL) ordered them to stay at home after two players — Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas — tested positive for Covid-19.
Serie A, adamant to go ahead with the season, refused to postpone the match stating that ASL did not consider the health protocols approved by the government and the football authorities.
According to the health protocols approved between the football authorities and the government, even if players test positive for Covid-19, the rest of the squad can continue to train and play provided they have tested negative. The rules also say that the match can take place as long as a side has 13 healthy players including a goalkeeper.
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The league highlighted the fact that other games went ahead despite positive cases at various clubs across the country. Matches between Torino and Atalanta, AC Milan against Crotone and Napoli against Genoa took place earlier in the season. What it failed to note though was that it was the fixture between Genoa and Napoli that resulted in the two Napoli players testing positive. 17 members of the Genoa squad have tested positive for the virus since.
The league stated that it had “a precise rule to be adopted in the event of multiple positives that can lead to the postponement of matches only upon the occurrence of certain conditions which, at the moment, do not apply to the case of Napoli.”
Sports Minister Spadafora said that the protocol still remains in force but further added that under ASL it has the authority to intervene in certain circumstances. “The local health authority may intervene in special cases,” he added. “The important thing is that the intervention is motivated by certain requirements, although these can vary.”
“We are not at risk of stopping the championship,” he told reporters after he met Italian federation boss Gabriele Gravina.“Everyone must follow the strict rules of the protocol, if the health situation changes, we as a government are also ready to change”.
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Gravina was also equally confident and said, “If we all care about health protection and the protocol is respected by everyone in its entirety, I think we can rest assured that the championship can be played and run safely.”
The comments only seem to add more confusion as to the rights and wrongs of the Napoli-Juventus game and any subsequent attempt to award points to Juventus — who incidentally turned up on the ground — via forfeit. Napoli will challenge that decision in court.
Gravina distanced himself from the situation though saying the decision depends on the disciplinary tribunal and added, “Of course, if holes start appearing and someone makes a mistake, then they will have to pay.”
Napoli have made a perfect start to their league campaign, with two wins from two games. Juventus meanwhile have won one game and drew the second against Roma.
Italy is among worst affected nations with over 328,000 thousand positive cases and 36,000 recorded deaths. Recently the country has witnessed a surge in cases in certain regions with huge pressure on the government to ensure it does not get out of hand as it did in the first phase in March.
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