Top flight football has resumed in Italy after a 95-day stoppage due to Covid-19. But matches are to continue behind closed doors and it remains unclear when fans will be able to return to the stadiums.
Italian football authorities are working towards re-opening stadiums in July so that at least some fans may be able to again watch games live. But for now there are no certainties in post-CovidItaly.
On 9 March, the government took the unpopular decision to suspend the football season indefinitely, much to the disappointment of fans across the country. For football-mad Italians, it was very hard to digest what was clearly an inevitable decision.
When matches resumed on Friday, it was a day of joy.
More than 8 million people tuned in to watch the first match, which sawJuventus host AC Milanin Turin, in the second leg of the Italian Cup semi-final.
The atmosphere was surreal with no one in the stands and quality lacking by both teams after such a long break.
Despite a missed penalty byCristiano Ronaldo, Juventus dominated and qualified on away goals for the Cup final, which will be played at the Olympic stadium in Rome on Wednesday.
Juve will faceNapoli, who beat Inter Milanin the other semi-final on Saturday.
After the game, Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso said the lockdown had changed everything. Coming to the stadium, playing without fans and observing social distancing and strict hygiene regulations – everything is different.
Serie A set for kick-off
Italy’s top football division, Serie A, is set to restart on 20 June. Before the season can end, there are still 110 regular-season games left to play and 4 make-up games.
For the moment, most fans are watching matches on their televisions, as even now, people prefer the comfort of their homes to going to reopened sports bars where social distancing rules are enforced.
Some clubs have thought up innovative ways to avoid the disappointment of playing in front of empty seats.
Lazio, one of the two top-division teams in Rome, launched the idea of fans purchasing cardboard cutouts of their image that will be placed in the stands when the team is playing. The proceeds will go to the Red Cross.
Inter Milan has said it will be using lights and graphic effects during their matches.
Others teams are to begin playing pre-recorded cheers when they score, in the hope of bringing a semblance of enthusiasm to the pitch.