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An empty San Siro Stadium in Milan.

Playing to an Empty House

The spread of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in a number of northern Italian cities has led to many logical methods to protect residents and visitors alike. However, this has had a knock-on effect in the world of sports. It has been announced that to ensure fans are not exposed, upcoming matches in Italian Serie A and the Europa League will be played behind closed doors. As an example, Inter Milan held a Europa League match against Ludogorets in an entirely empty stadium. It must have felt eerie for the players, who, perhaps for the first time in their lives, played a match with no spectators present.

A highly-anticipated match between the aforementioned Inter and league-leading Juventus at Milan’s San Siro stadium would always draw more than 80,000 fans. In their recent game, other than coaches, trainers, players, a few security guards and a television crew, the massive stadium was empty. The only other option available would have been to postpone the matches, which Gabriele Gravina, the president of the Italian Football League, did not favor.

Other sports were also impacted. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) confirmed that in line with government instructions, all events in the Lombardy and Veneto regions would be postponed. Even production of the latest “Mission: Impossible” film has been halted in Venice as a precaution. Yet, the contrast between the north of Italy and its south could not be more striking. South of Rome, there have been no cases of the virus, so when Napoli took the field in its recent Champions League match against Barcelona, they did so without issue, playing to an enthusiastic packed stadium, rather than to an empty house.