Story By: Joseph Golder, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Golder’s News And Sport
French politicians have slammed the decision to allow 3,000 Juventus fans to attend their side’s Champions League defeat away to Lyon despite fears over the spread of the coronavirus.
Italian fans in Juventus colours mingled with locals in Lyon’s bars and restaurants before the match, reportedly without protective masks, with the decision drawing sharp criticism from some of the country’s top politicians.
The match at the Groupama Stadium was attended by some 3,000 Juventus supporters travelled to watch. Juventus are based in Turin in northern Italy, where a massive coronavirus outbreak has seen 453 infections shock Europe.
French sports newspaper L’Equipe report that three MPs from the Rhone Department, named as Daniele Cazarian, Thomas Rudigoz and Jean-Louis Touraine had questioned the decision to allow the Italian supporters to travel to Lyon.
Still according to L’Equipe, and just like Laurence Fautra, the Mayor of Decines, the municipality where the Groupama Stadium is located, the MPs had asked for Juventus supporters to be banned, on the ground of “the legitimate concern of the inhabitants of eastern Lyon, in particular Decines and Meyzieu”.
Over the course of the day, the controversy reportedly took on a national dimension. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and former presidential candidate Segolene Royal criticised the government.
Le Pen said: “We must avoid that people from epidemic outbreak areas can come to our country.”
Speaking about Italian supporters, she added: “It is not reasonable to welcome them. We are still faced with inconsistency on the part of the government.”
Segolene Royal said on French TV channel France 2 that the government was guilty of “inconsistency”.
She added: “We do not understand, for example, why some students who return from travel are put in quarantine, are sidelined, and why we bring supporters for the match.”
France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran insisted that “no sick people had been identified in Turin” and the match was therefore allowed to go ahead despite the coronavirus fears, with Lyon beating Juventus 1-0.
In Italy, in contrast, the eruption of the coronavirus cases in the country has led to swift and decisive action, with matches postponed in the north of the country.
So far, 12 deaths have been reported in Italy. This weekend, Juventus and Inter Milan are set to play their crunch Serie A clash behind close doors. AC Milan will face Ludogorets from Bulgaria, in an empty stadium in the Europa League. The Bulgarian players even reportedly stepped off their bus wearing protective masks.
But French Health Minister Veran insists similar measures are not necessary in France yet.
He said: “We’re taking decisions based on a scientific and medical rationale.”
He also said France is not thinking about closing its border with Italy.
Olympique Lyonnais president Jean-Michel Aulas has been quoted by the New York Times as saying “all fans from Lyon and Juventus can come without any problems.”
This is despite the coronavirus, now officially called COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, causing the Ireland – Italy rugby match in the Six Nations being postponed over contagion concerns.
According to French radio service RFI, in the Italian press, all the daily newspapers have quoted Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri, who said: “The virus is a European problem and not just an Italian one. In France, only 300 swab tests were carried out while in Italy we did 3,500 of them. Our supporters have the right to attend the match.”
The Juventus manager reportedly pointedly added that in France there might be as many cases of contamination if there had been as many tests.
The incident comes after four Spanish supporters who travelled to Milan to watch Valencia’s Champions League round of 16 first leg against Atalanta have reportedly shown symptoms of coronavirus.
The four supporters were among the 2,400 other fans that travelled to the Italian city of Milan to watch Valencia’s 4-1 loss to Atalanta on 19th February.
However, General Subdirector of Epidemiology Herme Vanaclocha spoke with local media and said: “They contacted 112 (Spanish emergency number) but they are still being analysed.”
“What we are doing is speaking with them, we will run an epidemiologic check on them. We have several people we have to test and among them are fans of Valencia CF who were in Milan.”
Netizens seemed to agree with the French politicians’ concerns, with ‘Grem42′ saying: “We regularly cancel supporters’ trips in France for no reason at all and now a pandemic has been announced and we take no precautions. […]”
And ‘marcoprovence’ said: “The problem is that Juve has supporters all over Italy. For example yesterday on FR3 [ed: France 3 TV channel] news a group speaking into the reporter’s microphone: they all came from Milan.”
The ViralTab page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.