(ROME) — It was the largest soccer sport in Atalanta’s historical past and a 3rd of Bergamo’s inhabitants made the quick journey to Milan’s famed San Siro Stadium.

Almost 2,500 followers of visiting Spanish membership Valencia additionally traveled to that Champions League match.

Greater than a month later, consultants are pointing to the Feb. 19 sport as one of many largest explanation why Bergamo has turn into one of many epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic — a “organic bomb” was the way in which one respiratory specialist put it — and why 35% of Valencia’s crew grew to become contaminated.

The match, which native media have dubbed “Sport Zero,” was held two days earlier than the primary case of regionally transmitted COVID-19 was confirmed in Italy.

“We have been mid-February so we didn’t have the circumstances of what was taking place,” Bergamo Mayor Giorgio Gori mentioned this week throughout a dwell Fb chat with the International Press Affiliation in Rome. “If it’s true what they’re saying that the virus was already circulating in Europe in January, then it’s very possible that 40,000 Bergamaschi within the stands of San Siro, all collectively, exchanged the virus between them. As is feasible that so many Bergamaschi that night time received collectively in homes, bars to look at the match and did the identical.

“Sadly, we couldn’t have recognized. Nobody knew the virus was already right here,” the mayor added. “It was inevitable.”

Lower than every week after the sport, the primary circumstances have been reported within the province of Bergamo.

At about the identical time in Valencia, a journalist who traveled to the match grew to become the second particular person contaminated within the area, and it didn’t take lengthy earlier than individuals who have been involved with him additionally had the virus, as did Valencia followers who have been on the sport.

Whereas Atalanta introduced its first constructive case Tuesday for goalkeeper Marco Sportiello, Valencia mentioned greater than a 3rd of its squad received contaminated, “regardless of the strict measures adopted by the membership” after the match in Milan.

As of Tuesday, almost 7,000 individuals within the province of Bergamo had examined constructive for COVID-19 and greater than 1,000 individuals had died from the virus — making Bergamo probably the most lethal province in all of Italy for the pandemic. The Valencia area had greater than 2,600 individuals contaminated.

Luca Lorini, the pinnacle of the intensive care unit on the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, at present has 88 sufferers beneath his care with the coronavirus; not together with many extra in different components of the hospital.

“I’m positive that 40,000 individuals hugging and kissing one another whereas standing a centimeter aside — 4 instances, as a result of Atalanta scored 4 targets (the ultimate end result was 4-1) — was positively an enormous accelerator for contagion,” Lorini advised The Related Press on Wednesday.

“Proper now we’re at warfare. When peace time comes, I can guarantee you we’ll go and see how lots of the 40,000 individuals who went to the sport grew to become contaminated,” Lorini added. “Proper now we’ve different priorities.”

Silvio Brusaferro, the pinnacle of Italy’s Superior Institute of Well being, mentioned over the weekend on the nightly nationally televised briefing by the civil safety company that the sport was “one of many hypotheses” being evaluated as a supply of the disaster in Bergamo.

“It’s definitely an evaluation that may be made,” Brusaferro mentioned.

By final week, Bergamo’s cemetery grew to become so overwhelmed by the variety of useless that navy vans started transporting our bodies to a neighboring area for cremation.

Italy remained the European nation with probably the most circumstances, almost 70,000, and with virtually 7,000 deaths — probably the most worldwide and greater than twice as many as China.

Spain is the following nation in Europe with probably the most circumstances, almost 48,000, and it has surpassed China within the variety of deaths with greater than 3,400.

Greater than 435,000 individuals worldwide have been contaminated and the variety of useless closed in on 20,000, based on the working rely stored by Johns Hopkins College. General, greater than 100,000 have recovered.

For most individuals, the brand new coronavirus causes gentle or reasonable signs, equivalent to fever and cough that clear up in two to a few weeks. For some, particularly older adults and folks with present well being issues, it could actually trigger extra extreme sickness, together with pneumonia and dying.

The official attendance for the Feb. 19 sport was 45,792 — a “dwelling” report for Atalanta, a small membership making its debut in Europe’s prime membership competitors.

Atalanta captain Alejandro “Papu” Gómez advised Argentine each day Olé it was “horrible” to have performed that sport.

“It’s a metropolis of 120,000 individuals and that day (40,000) went to the San Siro,” the Argentine mentioned. “It was a historic match for Atalanta, one thing distinctive. To provide you an concept, my spouse took three hours to get to Milan, when that journey usually takes 40 minutes.”

The sport was performed in Milan as a result of Atalanta’s stadium in Bergamo didn’t meet the necessities set by European soccer governing physique UEFA.

Earlier than the match, Valencia followers freely roamed round Milan and gathered at a few of the metropolis’s plazas, together with the Piazza del Duomo, consuming and chanting crew songs.

Wanting again, the circumstances for virus contagion have been excessive, with 1000’s of individuals gathering with out a lot concern — at a time when the outbreak in Europe wasn’t but recognized — after which touring again dwelling. Almost 30 busloads of followers made the 60-kilometer (37-mile) journey from Bergamo to Milan.

The night earlier than the match, there was no social distancing as officers from each golf equipment mingled and exchanged items and handshakes at a gala dinner supplied by Atalanta.

“I’ve heard rather a lot (of theories), I’ll say mine: Feb. 19, 40,000 Bergamaschi went to San Siro for Atalanta-Valencia,” Fabiano di Marco, the chief pneumologist on the hospital in Bergamo, advised Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “In buses, vehicles, trains. A organic bomb, sadly.”

Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay was the primary Spanish league participant to check constructive for COVID-19. The crew performed a Spanish league sport towards Alavés about two weeks after the sport in Milan, and later Alavés reported that 15 individuals within the membership have been contaminated, although it didn’t say the circumstances have been instantly associated to the match towards Valencia.

Italian soccer gamers’ affiliation president Damiano Tommasi believes sports activities authorities ought to look lengthy and laborious on the Atalanta match earlier than restarting leagues.

“Take a look at what’s taking place in China, the place gamers are testing constructive for the coronavirus now — regardless of all the protection guidelines and precautions being taken,” Tommasi advised the AP, referring to a current constructive take a look at for former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini with Chinese language membership Shandong Lunen.

Fellaini’s constructive take a look at was alarming as a result of, whereas the outbreak started spreading in China, the virus has reportedly been receding there.

“It’s not going to be sufficient to simply take a look at the athletes,” Tommasi added. “Your entire setting must be protected. As a result of if one crew is caught, it blocks the complete system.”

After profitable the primary leg, Atalanta superior to the Champions League quarterfinals following one other victory within the second leg on March 10, which was performed in an empty Mestalla Stadium in Valencia after Spanish authorities prohibited video games involving groups from northern Italy to be performed with followers. A couple of thousand Valencia supporters gathered on the Mestalla to welcome the crew, although, and to look at the match collectively in close by bars and eating places.

Over the previous month, Atalanta has mourned the deaths of 5 former employees members. Whereas bulletins on the membership web site made no point out of the virus, native media have reported that a minimum of 4 of them died with COVID-19.

Nonetheless, just one constructive take a look at from Atalanta has been introduced.

“Some squads have chosen to not take a look at their gamers except they present signs,” Tommasi mentioned. “Different squads examined everybody. These are particular person selections.

“The top of the civil safety company has talked in regards to the probability that for each confirmed constructive case there are in all probability 10 precise positives. … The excessive variety of positives at Valencia makes you marvel.”

With the Champions League suspended due to the pandemic, Atalanta has no concept when it would play within the quarterfinals — which once more can be the membership’s largest sport in its historical past. Within the meantime, each the Bergamo crew and Valencia are left questioning in regards to the unexpected results of their match in February.


Azzoni reported from Madrid. Related Press writers Daniella Matar in Milan and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, and reporter Patricia Thomas in Rome contributed to this report.


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