Derby Dilemma: Football? Or Safety?

Anyone who has ever seen a Derby della Madonnina knows that safety is typically the last thing on anyone's mind. From the flares Inter fans threw on the pitch that actually hit Dida on the head, to Ibrahimovic knocking Materazzi unconscious by doing what every Milan fan always wanted to do, it kind of redefines the idea of a fiery match. But this Derby is different. Milan have two players who are currently testing positive for COVID-19, and Inter have six players testing positive. Despite both teams following the approved protocol from the Lega Serie A, it begs the question: should the teams play on Saturday with so many players infected? Do we choose football? Or safety?

Fans rarely make the right choice

Still up in the air is the decision about the Juventus-Napoli game that was not played just before the break. Napoli had played Genoa the week before, who had seven players and five other members of their organization test positive in the days following the match. After having two Napoli players test positive, as well as Juventus announcing two positive tests the day before, Napoli did not travel to Turin to play.

The details in between are in question. Whether the local health authorities asked Napoli not to travel, or Napoli asked them to ask them not to travel is being "investigated" in the only way Italy knows how to do things: with immense controversy. The "investigation" involves weighing out the precedent of allowing teams to postpone matches against the ever-present (even in the face of a global pandemic) questions of trying to gain a sporting advantage. The one thing that should be indisputable is that Napoli chose health and safety.

Napoli chose health

The decision from that "investigation," whether to give Juventus a 3-0 win for Napoli forfeiting, or to postpone the important match, has not been made. Not sure if they are waiting for Juve's check to clear, or if they simply haven't completed all of the necessary Italian superstition rituals, but it is a big decision, so they are bound to screw it up somehow.

While they are postponing making a decision about people's lives and livelihoods, another big decision gets closer every day: do they allow the Derby della Madonnina between Milan and Inter to be played? The game is scheduled for Saturday, however with eight players testing positive right now, and players having traveled and played with their national teams this week, is it prudent to play the game now? Is the approved protocol enough to protect our players from Inter's relatively large outbreak?

"Fresh air"

In February, just before Serie A shut down, I wrote about "When Life Matters." The virus was new, and the death toll was only just beginning. With only 300 cases in Italy at that time, with 11 deaths, it seemed prudent to play behind closed doors, or perhaps even shut the league down. For some reason, now, with over 36,000 deaths in Italy, the fear has apparently worn off. No, that doesn't make any sense in any realm, but it is sadly true.

Even amongst fans, the concern for the health and safety of our own players is not as important as playing the match, especially since Milan would gain a slight advantage by playing this week, with Inter missing more players. An informal Twitter poll is not even closed as of this writing, but an overwhelming majority indicate that they want to see the game more than they are concerned for our players.

Like any fan, I want to see more of this. But at what cost?

Serie A struggled to make the decision to lock down in the first place. Then they struggled with the decision to finish the season. Then they struggled to agree on procedures to finish the season, as well as to start up again. Making decisions is not their strong point. With so many players testing positive with only three matchdays played so far, and two games left unplayed already, talks have been mainly of shutting down again, or having playoffs to determine the season.

New reports today say that they are at least starting to think about some form of a bubble format. Perhaps it is because in the United States and Canada, both the NBA and the NHL were able to complete their seasons with zero players testing positive for COVID-19. However, I'm certain that Italy will screw even this concept up, or just reject it altogether. Controversy always reigns when weighing decisions about sport, even when lives are on the line. Are they waiting for young, healthy footballers to start dying from the virus before they act appropriately?

This coreo was only metaphorical, not literal

I don't envy those who have to make the decision as to whether or not to play this Derby. Although I'm aware that, like in February and March, they will only make the decision after the team busses have pulled up to the stadium, and leave the television people scrambling to put something on the air at the last minute. Decisions made like that still put players at risk and cause more controversy, superstition, and financial issues for everyone. 

As important as football is, and for me, it is truly the most important thing in life, it cannot be played without life. As much as I have been salivating for this matchup since before the schedule was even announced, 90 minutes of hoping we upset our abominable, putrid, fraudulent city rivals is not worth the health, safety, and potentially the lives of our players, staff, their family members, and others. Besides, I'd rather beat them fair and square, on level playing ground, and with as many of their players available as possible to cry at the end of the match. This decision should not be a dilemma. In the case of football or safety, life is always the answer.

This post inspired by the music of The Fray's "How to Save a Life"

Our next match is (possibly)
il Derby della Madonnina
Inter vs. Milan
Saturday, October 17 • 18:00 CEST (12noon EDT)

Derby Dilemma: Football? Or Safety? Derby Dilemma: Football? Or Safety? Reviewed by Elaine on 6:40 AM Rating: 5
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