Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo gave high-fives to imaginary fans on Sunday as coronavirus outbreak in Italy forced the Old Lady to play Inter Milan behind closed doors.
The Portuguese international made the gesture after coming down the team coach. The superstar grinned at waiting cameras before applauding all corners of an empty Juventus stadium before the match. Ronaldo has scored in 11 straight Italian top-flight matches, equalling the Serie A record.
The match was initially postponed along with a host of other matches, mostly in the north of the country which has been most affected by the virus and eventually went ahead on Sunday. But Serie A imposed stringent controls on the game, with fans and other non-essential personnel banned from attending Allianz Stadium or any other ground in Italy’s top flight.
Sunday’s match took place with the stands completely empty, which posed a few problems early on when the ball was cleared into the stadium’s rafters and nobody was around to retrieve it. Ronaldo and his teammates managed to get over the boring atmosphere in Turin to secure a crucial victory in the race for the Serie A title.
Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala scored as Juventus beat Antonio Conte’s Inter 2-0 – the players later applauded the empty seats with smiles on their faces. The result leaves the Old Lady a point ahead of rivals Lazio, and nine in front of Inter, with 12 games still to play.
Inter’s disappointing night was compounded with the sending off of Daniele Padelli. Their title hopes appear to be fading as they fell nine points behind the Old Lady, although they do have a game in hand.
Former Real Madrid forward certainly deserved a quiet smile after a difficult week for his family ended well. He flew back to Madeira to be with mum Dolores Aveiro in hospital after she had a stroke and emergency surgery.
But within days, Ronaldo posted that his mother was “recovering well” and hoped to resume normal life soon after suffering no long-term damage. Ronaldo thanked fans for their support and asked for privacy as his mum received treatment.
The coronavirus outbreak has decimated Italy’s sporting schedule as much as daily life, while deaths in the country from Covic-19 surged up by 133 to 366 in the past 24 hours. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has announced the closure of schools, gyms, museums and other venues.