Franz Ferdinand of Lombardy
Atalanta and Sarajevo
The assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo triggered the first world war. A football match triggered the Italian tragedy.
On 19 February Atalanta Bergamo played Valencia. The return match. Fans had to go to Milano for the game. The local stadium was declared inadequate. A record number of fans -over 45,000- saw how the Lombard team won. And passed to the quarter finals. An unprecedented success.
Atalanta (the team) won, Bergamo (the city) lost. From there on the covid-19 spreading was unfettered. Making it the hardest hit city in Italy. In Europe
The year of Atalanta
It was not Atalanta’s last match of the season. The Italian football competition went on till 9 March. Atalanta went winning in the southern city of Lecce on 1 March. A stunning 2-7 victory. The supporters were asked to wear a mouth mask. Asked. Not obliged. By then Italy understood something fishy was going on.
Then everything came grinding to a halt. Everything, all sports, even football. Last to surrender: the summer olympics in Tokyo. Followed by a deafening silence. Sports were plugged out of society.
Not all athletes perform weekly for a national crowd. Most work towards one -or a couple- yearly events. Those occasions the media industry choses for them. It is hard to get an audience for synchronized swimming or clay pigeon shooting.
Those poor people peak towards these events. And with them cancelled, so were their lives.
Some post their terrifying training sessions on social media. A desperate cry for attention, alas with little reverberation.
The spasmodic search for alternatives to sport ended soon. Sports are not missed that much. Atalanta Bergamo is but a faint memory. What we are really hooked on are screens. Independently what’s on them. Eventually boredom driven behaviour triumphs. Before the lack of televised sports could create a void, it was already filled.
Who will decide when football kicks off again? The same people who decided Atalanta-Valencia had to be played?
Masks or no masks? Public or empty stadiums? Will the vase crack or the well dry out? Is sport, and football in particular, debunked?
The financial damage undermines further activities. Who will pay? Is society going to bail out debt-ridden football clubs? Are they really too big to fail?
Maybe we should ask the heads of who permitted Atalanta-Valencia to be played. At least ask them to help digging a grave for football.
Over my dead body
The victory of Atalanta over Valencia in February gave a new dimension to ‘a pyrrhic victory‘.
Shall we forget? Shall we look the other way? Can we overpay football players and underfund scientists? Can ninety minutes of soccer make up for the sacrifice we are asked to make? Do corporate businesses have the last word? Let’s think about it. Before we sit mesmerised before our screens again.