It was Wednesday, February 19 2020, when all the inhabitants of Bergamo took their way to the streets. Most went to Milan, where their football club Atalanta competed in the Champions League against Spanish club Valencia, while others occupied bars in this city in Lombardy until the last corner, in anticipation of the TV transfer. Euphoria everywhere, there was an indescribable crowd. Almost no one has heard of social distancing, perhaps maybe only those who followed what was happening in Wuhan, China.
Today, experts are (almost) unanimous in their assessments. The football match was a biological bomb that largely contributed to the epidemiological catastrophe. Not only Atalanta fans, but also supporters of the Spanish club have stepped into Pétri’s bowl and made history as part of an unplanned experiment, on how mass sporting events can become the centre of a global pandemic. COVID-19 virus was undoubtedly present at the San Siro stadium that night. And an indefinite number of asymptomatic vectors “selflessly” shared it with others. What followed was a tragedy that would mark the “bergamas” for generations to come: after three weeks (as long as the incubation period lasts and the period when the disease becomes critical), an epidemic exploded in Bergamo. Between 8 and 16 March alone, 330 people died, with a total of almost 16.000 people dying in Lombardy, half of all deaths due to COVID-19 virus in Italy.
The Lombard’s were the first to point the finger at the European Football Association (UEFA) and its president, Aleksander Čeferin. Others followed, with UEFA being talked about on social media today as the mafia, responsible for the deaths of thousands. European football decision-makers could cancel the match or play it in front of empty stands, if they would listen a little more to the epidemiologists and not to the World Health Organization (WHO). Later, there was no self-criticism, no apology, at least also no acknowledgment that UEFA bears part of the blame. During the crisis, Čeferin preferred to threaten national football associations that their clubs would not compete in European Cup competitions, if they ended the football season prematurely, due to the pandemic crises.
He has quite a few supporters in Slovenia. Among them is “expert” Primož Gliha, a former Slovenian national football team member, who says that it is all just a cheap populism, to claim that the match between Atalanta and Valencia was a biological bomb. His argument is that there was no pandemic, as there were only two infected in Italy at the time. Whether Gliha is acting stupid or he really is, I don’t know. It doesn’t even matter. You know, talking nonsense is part of freedom of speech as a fundamental human freedom; because some claim that the Earth is a flat plate or that an orchestra is playing in the radio, nothing has happened to anyone yet.
Gliha will not either, but he is obviously part of the strategy of the deep state that must Čeferin, at least in Slovenia, wash away any responsibility for the health accident. The man is intelligent and knowledgeable and we would expect him to be able to predict the course of events. He could ask his friend Jack, the boss of Alibaba, who was already collecting protective equipment in the meantime, to later donate a little and sell a lot to Europe. Although it’s entirely possible that Jack would have misled him.
It is crystal clear that Western Europe in particular will not forget Ceferin’s virus indifference and almost dictatorial attitude towards some national alliances. UEFA is not an independent organization, far removed from any political currents. Whoever thinks this, lives in a parallel world. Connoisseurs of (football and political) backstage know well, which political group contributed the decisive votes in year 2016 and why he was the only candidate in year 2019. And that no interview for the Guardian or similar foliage will help him. Hence also the nervousness and panic.
Humanity will defeat the virus; even football will survive the pandemic, no worries. Not because of UEFA, but nonetheless. Ceferin, who opened the Pétrijevka, may soon find himself in it. He will have for himself the right partnership there.