Some supporters in the province at the heart of the epidemic return to normal but others are afraid it will be too early. Around 40,000 Atalanta fans, most of whom had traveled 30 miles from Bergamo home to Milan’s San Siro stadium, Mauro Ausilio was in a Champions League game against Valencia on February 19.
“The club qualified for the Champions League for the first time in history and I didn’t want to miss out,” Ausilio said.
But unknown to them at the time, coronavirus had been circulating for weeks in Italy and the first local infection was confirmed two days later in Codogno, south of Milan.
Atalanta won the game, but the fixture is now known as a detonator virus to kill an estimated 6,000 people across Bergamo, putting the province at the heart of the Italian pandemic.
Ausilio said he will not watch on television when Atalanta ‘s season resumes behind closed doors on Sunday evening in a Serie A match against Sassuolo. After months of hardship, the return of football is creating tension between some who see it as a step towards normality and those who think it is too soon.
“The last few months have mentally influenced all of us. I know people who died. And even though watching Atalanta is still a massive pleasure, some of the sparkles are missing,” Ausilio said.
Within days, Ausilio’s close friend, Diego Federici, has lost his parents to Covid-19. Federici believes that it is not the best time to restart football for those who have taken a major loss.
Bergamo town mayor Giorgio Gori also attended the match in San Siro with his son. Gori, after leading the city through the catastrophe, will now minimize the economic implications.
There’s always been a close bond between the people of Atalanta and Bergamo, so much so that every newborn child in the province gets a mini club replica kit.
The game comes as Bergamo prosecutors probe officials as part of an investigation into potential mistakes made at the start of the pandemic led by coronavirus victims’ relatives.
Stefano Fusco, who lost his grandfather and is the founder of NOI Denunceremo (we are going to denounce), the party of relatives that initiated the case, said: “I was hoping the football game wouldn’t happen”.
Because in Italy football is not a sport but a drug; I’m not saying people will forget what happened but maybe it will make them drop their guard … so I hope it’s a boring 0-0 score.