This week’s Italian Cup semi-final, second leg matches were set to bring football back to a nation emerging from the coronavirus crisis, but with the first semi kicking off today, the government is yet to give approval.
Juventus’ home clash with AC Milan today was to be the first competitive match played in Italy since the country became Europe’s Covid-19 epicentre, and the start of what the football authorities hope will be a return to normality.
More than 34,000 people on the peninsula have died from the virus since the start of the crisis, with the vast majority in northern regions like Piedmont and Lombardy which host Juve and Milan.
However, although the virus still persists, Italy began to gradually emerge from a stringent lockdown last month and has been slowly moving back towards regular life since, with the return of football pitched as the latest sign that the worst should be over.
Public broadcaster RAI has already announced its coverage of the two last four encounters, with Napoli v Inter Milan scheduled for Saturday.
However. while Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Wednesday confirmed the dates for the semis and the June 17 final in Rome, he only said that the government was “leaning towards authorising” the last three matches of the competition.
Speranza’s comments at the Italian Senate come just as it appeared that weeks of squabbling between Italy’s football authorities and the government had been left behind, with what will likely be a large, sport-starved TV audience ready for the two matches behind closed doors.
Should, as expected, Friday’s match take place fans will see a tie delicately poised at 1-1 following February’s entertaining first leg at the San Siro, which saw the ‘Rossoneri’ leading until Cristiano Ronaldo scored a stoppage time penalty to take a draw and an away goal back to Turin.
Milan will be without injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic.