Professional soccer has resumed in Italy after a three-month stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Juventus played against AC Milan in Turin in the second leg of the Italian cup semi-final. To the happiness of football fans all over Italy, matches in the country’s top league will resume June 20. However, stadiums remain empty of fans for the time being.
When the Italian government took the difficult decision to suspend the football season on March 9 due to COVID-19, it was a sad moment for fans across the country. The indefinite suspension of the national sport was tough for many to digest. The resumption of matches Friday night was a moment of joy, despite the fact the game was nothing to write home about.
Playing at the Allianz Stadium in Turin were host Juventus and AC Milan - in a game that would qualify one of the teams for the final of the Italian Cup to be played in Rome Wednesday. The atmosphere was surreal with no one in the stands and quality on both sides after such a long break from the field clearly lacking.
Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci spoke after the game.
Bonucci said his emotions are strange, playing in an empty stadium after 90 days of no competition. He said it was difficult at the beginning and AC Milan played well despite only having a 10-man team, but said Juventus managed to reach their objective to play in the final.
Italy’s top football division, Serie A, will get underway again on June 20. Before the season can end, there are still 110 regular-season games left to play and 4 make-up games. Italian soccer authorities are hoping and working towards re-opening stadiums in July and allowing at least some fans to watch the games live.
But until then, most fans will be watching the games from home because even at sports bars social distancing rules are in place.
Some soccer teams have thought up innovative ways to avoid the sadness of having to play in front of empty seats.
Lazio, one of the two top-division teams in Rome, launched the idea of fans purchasing cardboard cutouts of their image to be placed in the stands when the team is playing. The proceeds will go to the Red Cross.
Other teams will play recorded cheers after a team score. The aim is to maintain a semblance of the enthusiastic atmosphere at Italian football games. Inter Milan has said it will be using lights and graphic effects during their matches.