Chaos in Italy after sports minister asks Serie A to be suspended

Parma manager Daniele Faggiano (right) speaks on a phone moments before his team’s match against SPAL. (AP pic)

ROME: Italian football was plunged into a state of chaos and confusion on Sunday when the kickoff to a Serie A match between Parma and SPAL faced a last-minute delay following a call from Italy’s Minister for Sport to suspend the league during the coronavirus outbreak.

The game at the Stadio Ennio Tardini was set to be the first closed-doors match to be played since the Italian government ordered that all games are played in empty stadiums until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease.

Yet Minister for Sport Vincenzo Spadafora asked the national soccer association (FIGC) to stop top division Serie A matches after the government ordered a lockdown of large parts of the north of the country, backing a plea for suspension made by the head of the players’ union Damiano Tommasi on Saturday.

Spadafora posted on his Facebook account that players, fans and referees should not be put at risk at a time when authorities were asking citizens to make “huge sacrifices” to battle the outbreak.

The comments caused confusion in Parma, where the players were in the tunnel ready to start the match, scheduled for 11.30am.

The players were then called back into the dressing room by the referees as they awaited a decision on whether the game would go ahead or not.

After a delay of 35 minutes, it was announced that the match would go ahead with a new kickoff time of 12.45pm.

Parma’s meeting with SPAL is the first of five Serie A games scheduled to take place on Sunday, including a crucial clash between title contenders Juventus and Inter Milan in Turin.