Italian PM says training can start in May, no date for Serie A re-start
IMAGE: Men wearing masks play football. Photograph: Getty Images
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gave the go-ahead on Sunday for professional sports teams to start training again in May following the novel coronavirus outbreak but did not set a date for soccer’s top-flight Serie A championship to resume.
Conte, announcing measures to ease the lockdown during a televised address to the country, said individual training could start on May 4, when players would still have to respect social distancing rules, and that team training could begin on May 18.
Italy was the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus and Serie A has been suspended since March 9. The suspension followed a chaotic fortnight in which the country attempted to carry on with matches behind closed doors.
Conte said sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora would work “intensively” with scientists and sports leaders to ensure training was safe.
“Then we will try to see if they can continue with the championships that are suspended. We will only reach this conclusion if it can be guaranteed that it is safe. We don’t want our athletes to get sick.
“I’m passionate for football,” he added. “Like many Italians, I initially found it strange that the championship could be interrupted or suspended but I think that even the most ardent fan understands that there wasn’t an alternative.”
The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has already drawn up a medical protocol for training.
For the start of training, each club will form a group of players, technical staff, doctors and physiotherapists who will be tested and then isolated in a summer-style training camp.
There are also plans to donate five COVID test-kits for each kit used by clubs to avoid the criticism that football is taking away much-needed resources from other areas.
There are 12 rounds of matches still to play in Serie A plus a number of outstanding games from previous rounds. Title holders Juventus are one point clear of Lazio at the top.
Spanish season unlikely to resume before summer, says health minister
The Spanish soccer season, halted like most major sporting competitions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, is unlikely to return until the summer, the country’s health minister Salvador Illa said on Sunday.
La Liga president Javier Tebas has been bullish about the need to complete the campaign in order to avoid collective losses of up to one billion euros ($1.08 billion) and has given three potential re-start dates: May 29, June 7 or June 28.
The league has produced a protocol with strict guidelines for clubs to follow when training resumes while Spain’s sports ministry has also set out a plan for a return to action in closed stadiums to boost the local economy.
But in Sunday’s daily coronavirus briefing, Illa was careful not to set any date for a return.
“I cannot say now if professional football will be able to restart before the summer, it would be imprudent of me,” he told a news conference.
The health minister added that La Liga’s plans to provide daily COVID-19 tests for players, which have been criticised by the Spanish players’ association for diverting resources from groups with greater need, requires government approval.
“There is an order from the health ministry which is in place for all types of groups, including professional football,” he said. “They have to put whatever type of diagnostic tests they have at the disposition of the regional governments.”
Over 23,000 people in Spain have died from the coronavirus but on Sunday the country posted its lowest daily death toll in over a month as children were allowed out to exercise in a relaxation of one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.
But Illa urged citizens to remain cautious and realistic about the immediate future.
“We are going to see how things evolve before we decide how different professions will resume activities,” he said.
“Things will not be like they were before. Until we get a vaccine we’re going to have to learn to live with this virus which I insist is dangerous and we cannot afford to show it a lack of respect.”