Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Italy, the Italian government has ordered that all sporting events in the country be played behind closed doors. This includes the matches of Serie A Femminile, including AC Milan’s fixtures.
The previously postponed matches have now been rescheduled for March 17th and April 5th, respectively. Milan will meet Fiorentina again in the Coppa Italia, two weeks from now.
That game will then be followed up by their league match in April.
Before Milan and Fiorentina meet again, however, they will have another go at Juventus this season. Milan will play the Bianconere again on March 21st.
They will also play them in an empty stadium, with no support to buoy them along the way.
The Wrong Kind of Attention
The directive also comes in light of the fact that Milan’s players were prevented from joining their national teams for the international break. Chief among them being centre-back Stine Hovland. During an interview with Norwegian channel TV2, Norway’s team doctor, Said Tutunchian, said that Hovland and four other Milan players were quarantined for 14 days.
This was done as a precautionary measure, as Lombardia has been the region that has been the hardest hit by the virus.
Many of the players also reside in neighborhoods that have had high infection rates. This was one of the main reasons why the team decided to impose a ban that would prevent their players from participating in any international tournaments.
As a result of this, the Rossonere were given the orders to stay at home. This meant that many of them would miss the annual March tournaments, chief among them being the Algarve Cup. Italy is currently participating in the tournament.
Curiously enough, only one player was allowed to bypass this self-imposed ban. The player was Nora Heroum, the malleable midfielder. She was allowed to leave the city and join Finland, as they are currently contesting the Cyprus Cup. The reasons why are currently unknown.
Nora even played in Finland’s first match of the tournament, and she also played for a full 90 minutes.
She also seems to be just fine after playing that match, with the only oddity being that she was apparently, fielded as a centre-back and not a midfielder.
The international ban was not just limited to the Milan players. Juventus players Doris Bačić and Sofie Pedersen were also removed from their country’s squads (Croatia and Denmark). Their removals were due to the fact that Piemonte has recorded a few cases of the infection (56 in total). Both national teams did not want to take any chances with them, however slim the chances of contracting the virus may be.
The most high profile case, however, involved Juve’s Linda Sembrant. Sembrant was prevented from joining Sweden for the Algarve Cup by the team doctors. After enduring an 11-hour layover in Munich where she was thoroughly examined, the decision was made to send her back home. She will now spend the duration of the tournament with her family in Sweden.
The story became so prominent that the likes of Gianluca Di Marzio and La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote about it. The two of them normally devote their time to men’s football, and hardly write about the women.
The decision to remove Linda was no doubt, not an easy one. As Sweden’s captain Caroline Seger said, they “had to do what was best for the team.” That included sending Linda back home, which was a tough choice that was most certainly made after careful deliberation.
(It should be noted, however, that Linda is actually healthy and free of the virus.)
The fact that Sembrant was removed from Sweden’s roster, while others like Nora Heroum and Tuija Hyyrynen (who also plays for Juventus) were allowed to join their squads, raises a few questions.
Why were some players allowed to join their squads while others weren’t? And why was Italy allowed to participate in the Algarve Cup with ten players from Juventus, while other teams removed the Torino based players from their rosters?
The answers to this haven’t been revealed to us yet. We can, however, ascertain a few clues from the few statements that have been given over the matter. As Said Tutunchian stated, the decision to convene or remove players from the squads was left up to the discretion of the national teams’ doctors.
The risks were assessed (along with the players) and decisions were made based on those findings.
In the end, it was the teams who had the final say over the matter. This was most definitely the case with Milan, who made the choice to prevent their players from joining their respective national sides.
With this in mind, some of the misconceptions surrounding the players’ removals have now been dispelled. One of the more popular theories was that the FIGC was purposely excluding the Milan based players, in order to add more Juve players to the roster. This has been proven wrong. Rather, it was Milan who had prevented their own players from joining their international teammates.
The conspiracy theory never made much sense to begin with, given that Valentina Giacinti and Laura Fusetti are much more experienced and better than their debutante replacements. And given the way Italy played against Portugal, it’s safe to say they were sorely missed as well.
This also debunks the conspiracy theory by the opposition that Milan was somehow taking advantage of the pandemic in order to get more rest, just so they can be better prepared against other teams.
There is a legitimate crisis going on where people are you know, dying. Milan had very legitimate reasons for being concerned about the safety of their players, especially considering that they are in the epicenter of the endemic. If you think otherwise and try to make this all about you and your team then well ... I got nothing nice to say about you.
We still don’t have all of the answers we’re looking for, but they will surely be revealed to us over time.
For now, as much as we miss them, let’s just be happy that our players are being kept safe and more importantly, are healthy.
They’ll most certainly need to be in good health to face the challenges that lie ahead.
As was previously mentioned, their next two games will be against Fiorentina and Juventus.
They’ll need all of their good health, along with a substantial amount of planning and preparation, in order to face these two teams.
They might need a hearty dose of luck as well.
Milan vs Juventus: March 21st, at 15 p.m. CEST (6 a.m. PST / 9 a.m. EST)
Milan vs Fiorentina (Coppa Italia): March 17th, at 14:30 p.m. CEST (5:30 a.m. PST / 8:30 a.m. EST)
Milan vs Fiorentina (League): April 5th at 12:30 p.m. CEST (3:30 a.m. / 6:30 a.m. EST)