It was likely that at some point last spring or over the summer, all the North American sports that were so desperate to return looked at European’s soccer reemergence in May and June, and figured if they could do it, we should too. Of course, everyone on this side of the Atlantic ignored the ways in which European countries had handled the pandemic, and that the numbers of infected and dying were so much lower.
Which makes college football’s and the NFL’s bids to run their season as close to normal as they can seem even more ridiculous when, once again, European soccer is facing a coronavirus problem.
The big story is today’s Juventus-Napoli match, which looks like it’s going to be a 3-0 forfeit in favor of Juventus. It started with two non-playing staff members of Juventus testing positive, and thus the whole team was held in isolation in Turin. It got more complicated as Napoli played Genoa last week, and 17 Genoa players have tested positive since, which has forced their match with Torino this week to be postponed. Before their match with Napoli, only a couple Genoa players had tested positive, so the game went ahead. This appears to be what officials in Napoli would like to avoid with their home team and with Juventus.
Two Napoli players, Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas, have tested positive since, and because of that the Napoli side have not been allowed to travel outside of the city. Their plane to head to Turin was apparently on the runway before they were waved off. Italy is rightly being cautious after what happened this past spring, and hence fears of traveling clusters are keeping Napoli in place. In the last week, Italy as a whole has seen about a 75 percent rise in cases, to 2,600 per day.
However, Serie A has rejected Napoli’s request to postpone their match with Juventus. The league has a rule that you have to have 10+ positive tests and be unable to field 13 players before they’ll postpone a match, so Juventus are planning to take the field without Napoli there and then claim their 3-0 forfeited win.
Italy isn’t the only country seeing this, though theirs is the most advanced case. English champions Liverpool will take the field against Aston Villa in a couple of hours without midfielder Thiago or striker Sadio Mane, as they’ve both tested positive and are in isolation for 10 days. There were rumors flying yesterday that Mohammed Salah had also tested positive, but that was not the case.
The fear everywhere was that fall and winter would bring a second wave. We don’t know if this is that yet, but if countries with actual policies, infrastructure, and leadership can’t keep the virus penned in to run their sports cleanly, even without fans, what chance do the NFL and NCAA really think they have?