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Covid -19 Cases Plummet in Italy, and Hopes are High as Seria A Discuss Resumption Date

The country has been devastated by the consequences of the pandemic but talk about football resuming in May has provided a glimmer of hope to its people

Francesco Acerbi has many perspective on football's importance in reference to life and death.

The Lazio defender developed a drinking problem after the death of his father, while he has twice overcome cancer.

So, while Acerbi is keener than most to ascertain the 2019-20 Serie A season concluded, together with his side presently second within the table, just some extent behind leaders Juventus, he says "health is more important" at a time when Italy has been devastated by the consequences of Covid-19.

“I know that all too well," the Italy international told La Repubblica earlier in the week . "Trust me: the priority is to urge out of this terrible period.

"We mustn’t hurry, we must respect the principles imposed by the govt . It’s better to remain reception an additional week than hurry to start out everything up again then find ourselves within the tunnel for several more months."

That tunnel looks long and dark enough because it is true now. Indeed, it seems perverse to even be discussing football.

As the president of the Referees Association, Marcello Nicchi, told TWM Radio on Wednesday, "While there are still 600 people dying per day, we cannot mention sport."

And yet that's precisely what numerous Italians want to try to to . a minimum of for a touch while. Any brief distractions from the sad reality of life are welcome.

As Nicchi quite correctly acknowledged , many people are still dying a day from Covid-19. And this, in spite of the very fact that the country has been on lockdown for a month.

Consequently, it's hard to seek out anyone singing from their balconies anymore. Indeed, as we've seen in Naples, people are now more concerned with lowering baskets of food right down to the streets below in order that those hit hardest by the pandemic might a minimum of encounter something to eat.

And it's society's most vulnerable who are certainly suffering the foremost .

The virus has ravaged Italy's elderly population – the typical age of the quite 17,000 deaths is 78.5 – and one among the tragic knock-on effects of the pandemic is that hospitals are not any w so overwhelmed that even some cancer patients are no longer guaranteed access to the services, facilities and treatment they require.

Inevitably, there has been a brutal backlash. One Bologna-based doctor told Goal that there have even been threats of action against medical staff who are faced with the unenviable task of prioritising patients – all of whom are seriously ill.

Even those that have avoided infection but remain cooped up in their homes are struggling. Depression has become a serious cause for concern, particularly for those that have lost their jobs during the crisis. In Torino, a 29-year-old man committed suicide after being made redundant at the top of March.

The state police have also updated YouPol – an app aimed toward tackling bullying and drug-dealing at schools – in order that children and teenagers can now report incidents of violence too.

In short, nearly everyone in Italy is hurting now, in a method or another.

Amid all the death, devastation and despair, though, there are signs of hope; positive trends to be found in graphs and statistics.

The numbers of latest cases and other people in medical care are falling. As is that the dreaded daily count.

The mere incontrovertible fact that people can mention when sport may resume is an encouraging check in itself. The return of Serie A would mean that the lockdown restrictions were being loosened; it might signal the return of something resembling normality.

And for several many Italians, football is an integral a part of their daily lives.

People aren't just lining up outside the supermarkets and pharmacies at the moment; there also are queues at the newsstands for the newest edition of the Gazzetta dello Sport.

And Wednesday morning's front page excitedly revealed details of the plans for "Phase 2" of the relaunch of the 2019-20 Serie A season.

The league was suspended after round 26, with the last game being played on March 9.

Italy will remain on a nationwide lockdown until April 13 and while the containment period is predicted to be imminently extended, there's mounting optimism that players are going to be allowed to resume training on May 4 – obviously while being meticulously monitored by club doctors and observing the tightest of hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

Inter chief medic Professor Piero Volpi, who was hospitalised on March 27 after contracting coronavirus and is now reception recovering, has already expressed his concerns that the footballing community still "tends to underestimate the emergency we are still facing".

He is, rightly, preaching caution, remarking within the Gazzetta that "in the case of a team that has got to play, there are 60 or 70 families to guard ."

Even VAR might be done away with when Serie A returns due to the concerns over putting match officials in confined spaces. There has also been talk about playing all of the remaining fixtures behind closed doors in Rome, because the capital has been less suffering from the virus.

Player safety is paramount, of course, but many of these who travelled home to be with their families during the lockdown – like Inter duo Christian Eriksen and Ashley Young – are already back in Italy.

Meanwhile, the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are expected to return after Easter, which is vital , as both would be required to self-isolate for 2 weeks before being given the green light to coach with their team-mates.

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte told the BBC on Thursday that "if scientists are in agreement, we'd begin to relax some measures already by the top of this month" and three possible Serie A restart dates have already been mentioned: Commonwealth Day , May 31 and June 7.

The hope is that the league could then be concluded before the top of July by scheduling two rounds every week but, even then, there are some concerns from a physical point of view.

"The thing that worries me most," Udinese's fitness coach Giovanni Brignardello told the Corriere dello Sport, "is the eventual relaunch, with players forced to return after just a couple of weeks of preparation, then having to play every three days.

"Condensing many games into so few days creates a risk of excessive physical stress, so it's clear that such a schedule would increase the danger of injury."

Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero has also questioned the purpose of staging games in empty stadia, quite understandably asking on Telenord, "A game without fans – what even is it?”

However, the bulk of the game's stakeholders are united in their desire to end the campaign both to take care of the integrity of the league – but also to make sure its very survival.

Many clubs would simply not be ready to take the financial hit.

According to the Corriere, losing the remaining rounds of the season could cost Serie A sides up to €95 million (£83m/$103m) in gate receipts, while the ultimate instalment of the league's TV rights affect Sky Sport Italia and DAZN is due in May and totals €225m (£197m/$244m).

The decision made by 19 Serie A clubs to chop player wages by 30 per across the board – Juventus had already agreed a pay freeze with their squad – has provoked a furious response from the players' and coaches' unions.

Napoli, meanwhile, are reportedly set to suspend their non-playing staff for a minimum of two months, underlining that financial implications of cancelling the campaign would be catastrophic and wide-reaching.

They could be long-lasting too. Brescia reiterated on Wednesday that they "would wish to avoid playing again out of respect for the sad situation" within the city, which has been devastated by the pandemic.

Cynics have acknowledged that it's in Brescia's best interests for the season to be cancelled, given they're presently within the relegation zone. Indeed, Frosinone, who were third in Serie B before the break, are threatening action if they're denied promotion to the highest flight.

This is the ugly side of the gorgeous game; the one that no-one ever wants to ascertain , least of beat the present climate. Saving lives really is all that matters at the instant .

“It’s the toughest moment for those that haven’t lived through the last war,” Fiorentina boss Beppe Iachini told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It are going to be impossible to forget the military trucks that took the coffins faraway from Bergamo and other cities in Lombardy. Families torn by pain without even having the ability to mention goodbye to their loved ones.

“Health is that the priority. many of us are still dying, so it’s difficult to believe football."

Even Acerbi acknowledged, though, that the return of football would be "a boost for the general public , a symbol of hope".

And they're both right.

There should be no rush to resume play, and there won't be; the Italian government will see thereto , while the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina has already said that he would be willing to attend even until October to end the season.

However, the pandemic has simultaneously hammered home the insignificance and significance of sport.

Having been forced to measure apart for a month, people are now fully appreciating the importance of anything that brings them together and football, for all its faults, are often a unifying force.

Referees' chief Nicchi might not have wanted to speak about the sport at this trying moment in time but he still couldn't help but consider the crucial role it's to play in Italy's healing process.

"I hope that in any case this," he said, "people can realise the sweetness of sport, what proportion we missed it and why we'd like to be kind to every other."

All of Italy remains trapped therein long, dark tunnel but a minimum of we're beginning to see some light at the top of it.


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