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This promising soccer team was foiled by the coronavirus

After surprisingly advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals Atalanta of Bergamo saw how their city was terribly affected by Covid19.

Players from the Atalanta of Bergamo.

Atalanta de Bergamo is one of the best teams in the Italian soccer league. / Photo: twitter.com/Atalanta_BC

LatinamericanPost| Onofre Zambrano

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Leer en español: Atalanta de Bérgamo: una revelación truncada por el coronavirus

They just attack and it gives them results. For the second consecutive year, Atalanta is among the best four teams in Serie A, and in its first foray into the Champions League, before the world stopped, it slipped into the top 8, becoming with a low budget, a true European revelation.

The club barely reaches 40 million dollars for payroll , which would not be enough to buy what Cristiano Ronaldo costs, but, even so, it was until March 14, - when soccer stopped all over the planet-, the second team with the best average goals per game among those who play in the five main European leagues.

Between Italy, Spain, England, Germany and France, Atalanta is only behind the powerful Bayern Munich, which in turn spends more than three times its salary on its players than the humble Italian team. But how did they do it? Simple: by always attacking. 

 

The happy story

Atalanta embodies the mentality of 'Móla mía', a phrase that refers to never giving up. In the Champions League they began losing their first three group stage games including a 1-5 against the powerful Manchester City, but the evolution of the group allowed them to reach the fifth date with qualifying possibilities with just one point and thus, they ended up winning their two final commitments.

In addition to surviving the group in which Manchester City, Shakhtar and Dinamo Zagreb were, the Italian team that has in its ranks the Argentinean Alejandro “Papu” Gómez, the Colombian Duván Zapata and the Dutch Hans Hateboer, among others, is the European club with the most players distributed around the world today.

In total, 54 players are loaned to other teams by the club managed by Giampiero Gasperini. An even more encouraging fact is that of those 54, 34 are under 23 years of age, and, in addition, 22 of them belong to the first team, and another 27 to the spring, category sub 19.

What seems to be a very powerful future project capable of definitively consolidating itself in UEFA competitions may, however, have an obstacle in the president of this organization, Aleksander Ceferin, who downplayed the club's sports strategy, warning:  "the number of players that certain institutions have is an aberration. In Italy, an entity controls 103 soccer players. We are going to set limits ”.

 

Also read: Behind the driver: Who makes up the Formula 1 team?

The sad story

Despite the joy they have given to the city of Bergamo of just 1.1 million inhabitants, the coronavirus pandemic abruptly disrupted their lives. Not only stopping the pace of the game that made them liquidate Valencia with global 8-4 in the round of 16 of the European competition, but with the number of inhabitants affected by the known virus.

At the end of the second match against the Spanish in Mestalla, the Atalanta players gathered in front of the television camera and held a shirt with a dedication written on the chest that read: "Bergamo, this is for you", which could well be the appropriate slogan for the end of a football fairy tale.

Many did not understand at the time what the message was about, although they assumed it was a congratulation. But no, it was a message of support for the city, which was facing a tragedy of high proportions.

Bergamo, located in the province of the same name, had by March 10, when there was still no quarantine on the planet, 1,472 infections by coronavirus. If it extends to Lombardy, the region that encompasses Bergamo and Milan, the death toll was even more tragic, 468 dead.

Analysts indicate that, for the first leg match against the Spanish, played at the San Siro in Milan, 40,000 people traveled, possibly triggering this kind of "biological bomb".

Hours after Atalanta flew to Valencia, the blockade in Italy extended throughout the national territory. Defender Mattia Caldara admitted to the Eco Di Bergamo newspaper that the happiness of being among the top eight teams in Europe disappeared as soon as they got off the plane when they returned, not seeing any fans receiving them at the airport.

By March 30, the numbers were even more disappointing. 1878 deceased by Covid19 in Bergamo and more than 8,500 infected. Military convoys picking up dead was the ornament of the city while hospitals, funeral homes and cemeteries were crowded. In addition, an important character for the city died, the former boxer Angelo Rottoli, who could not fight the virus at 61 years of age.

Of course, on campus, only the case of contagion of goalkeeper Marco Sportiello has been known to date, who tested positive on March 20. In this sense, the president of the club, Antonio Percassi, stated for the RTL 102.5 radio station, the following: "We have had eight cases of people working for Atalanta, and that has been very hard and sad."

 

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