The president of European soccer’s main governing body insists that all information on COVID-19 was followed before the struggle in Milan.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has defended the decision to permit Atalanta v Valencia to proceed as scheduled on February 19 despite the looming threat of coronavirus.
Atalanta procured a stunning 4-1 win in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 tie against the Spanish giants facing 40,000 ecstatic fans in the Giuseppe Meazza, due to some Hans Hateboer brace and goals from Josip Ilicic and Remo Freuler.
The joy of this event has faded significantly per month on, but with the mayor of Bergamo labelling the game a”biological bomb” that might have helped to accelerate the spread of COVID-19, which has caused over 10,000 deaths in Italy thus far.
The next leg was played behind closed doors in an empty Mestalla on March 10 as stricter social distancing measures began to be put in place, with Atalanta making a 4-3 victory to progress into the quarter-finals 8-4 on aggregate.
Ceferin has rejected any criticism of UEFA for failing to ensure the safety of fans in Milan last month, insisting there was no method of knowing at that point how fast the crisis would grow.
“On February 19, nobody knew that Lombardy are the middle of the epidemic,” the Uefa president stated. “Who were we to say it should not go ahead? We followed the advice of the government constantly and we could not do anything.”
Ceferin went on to express his view that UEFA were right to enable the next leg to take place with fans, with postponements never taken lightly because of the contractual responsibilities involved.
“Decisions can not be taken a day,” he added. “There are contracts and arrangements.
“Football was being played across Europe then. The boundaries were open when Valencia and Atalanta played. Gatherings of fans outside the stadium was the obligation of the Spanish government.”
All Champions League and Europa League fittings were pushed back the week after Atalanta’s success in Spain, with major leagues throughout the continent shutting up shop according to new government rules.
This summer’s European Championships as well as the Copa America have been rescheduled for next year, and it isn’t yet known for sure whether the 2019-20 effort will reach its natural conclusion.