Coronavirus (COVID-19) has now moved into the world of football and a case has been recorded in the Italian league on Thursday for the first time. According to reports, a US Pianese ASD player, King Paul Akpan Udoh, has become the first professional footballer in the country to be diagnosed with the deadly virus.
An Italian newspaper La Nazione reports that the Italian-Nigerian player who plays in the third division of the league had the symptoms in a hotel in Alessandria on Saturday. The report noted that the affected player was training with the team ahead of Sunday’s game against Juventus U-23s before checking into his room.
It was learned that the 22-year-old player had requested to be quarantined voluntarily before testing positive for COVID-19. Udoh started his career with Reggiana before moving to Juventus in 2011 where he was loaned back for a year.
After progressing through the youth ranks of Juventus, Udoh secured a loan move to Virtus Lanciano, a Serie B side in 2016 with an option to buy at the end of the season.
Failing to impress, he was returned to Juve, and then loaned to Lega Pro side Pontedera later the same year. He had a loan stint with Pontedera, Fernana, Fano and Viareggio before joining Pianese on July 14, 2019.
Pianese ASD is based in the Tuscany region, which is the western part of Italy. The club is playing in Serie C for the first time in its history after winning their Serie D group in 2018–19. The Italian club is currently 19th in Group A of the third tier.
A statement on Thursday read: “Two new suspected positive cases of Coronavirus in Tuscany. Both are awaiting confirmation by the Higher Institute of Health.
“One is a 22-year-old man in the Siena province, a Pianese player, who last Saturday had symptoms in a hotel in Alessandria, where he was training with the team ahead of Sunday’s game [at Juventus U-23s].”
Coronavirus which first emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of December has been tagged ‘the start of an epidemic’. The killer virus has been detected in almost 50 countries with more than 82,000 documented cases and at least 2,800 deaths now recorded globally.
The outbreak of the disease in Italy has seen the Italian FA canceled a number of matches while other matches will be played behind closed doors with a limited window between now and the end of the season to complete all remaining matches.
One of four Serie A games canceled last weekend is Inter Milan’s game against Sampdoria and the Nerazzurri’s Europa League match against Ludogorets last night was played behind closed doors. Only rights-holders were allowed to watch the match while Ludogorets players wore face masks when they arrived in Italy.
Serie A announced that five matches on February 28-March 1 will be played behind closed doors, including Juventus v Inter Milan in Turin.
The friendly match England and Italy at Wembley in March now in doubt as the FA hold crisis talks following the outbreak in northern Italy. The country remains the worst-affected European country and has so far recorded 453 reported cases and12 deaths.