Absent Napoli raise questions over protocol

Absent Napoli raise questions over protocol

TURIN (Italy) • Napoli failed to turn up for their Serie A clash at Juventus in Turin on Sunday after a coronavirus row threw Italian football into chaos.

The match was abandoned 45 minutes after its scheduled start time after Napoli did not travel to the Allianz Stadium, and Gennaro Gattuso’s side now risk forfeiting the game 3-0.

Juventus’ players were present for the third game of the season, along with referees and a handful of supporters under the rain. But not the visitors, who remained in isolation at home on the instructions of the regional health authorities of the Campania region, which hosts the city of Naples, after midfielders Eljif Elmas and Piotr Zielinski both tested positive for Covid-19 during the week.

Juventus president Andrea Agnelli told Sky Sport Italia: “(Napoli president Aurelio) de Laurentiis asked me to postpone the match, I replied that there are regulations to be respected. A 3-0 win? I always prefer to win on the field.”

Juventus had confirmed they would “take to the field” as scheduled despite two positive tests among their staff this week, with coach Andrea Pirlo and the squad arriving an hour before kick-off.

Serie A insisted that all the health protocols were in place for the match to safely go ahead “even in the event of positive tests”. It added that these measures are “applicable to the situation of Napoli, who have two positive players for Covid-19”.

Napoli are the first team in Europe’s five major leagues not to take to the pitch in a scheduled game due to the coronavirus pandemic. The club moved to deny reports coach Gattuso had tested positive. Another round of swabs were set to be carried out yesterday.

Zielinski and Elma’s positive tests came after last weekend’s 6-0 thumping of Genoa, who have since recorded 22 positive cases that includes 17 players.

Serie A pointed out that other matches had gone ahead despite positive cases such as the game between Torino and Atalanta, AC Milan against Crotone and Napoli’s hammering of Genoa.

The league is applying Uefa rules that say a match can take place as long as a side have 13 healthy players, including a goalkeeper. The only possible exemption would be a club which has an active outbreak of Covid-19 with more than 10 new positive cases in a week. In that case, the affected club can request a postponement, but only once in the term.

Serie A has insisted “the system of rules in force must guarantee maximum health protection for the people involved, equal treatment between the clubs, as well as respect for principles of fair play”.

But Napoli believe the health instructions of their regional authorities supersede Italy’s sports health protocol.