AP Interview: Udinese and Watford owners wary of restart

Full Screen
1 / 2

LaPresse

FILE - In this March 8, 2020 file photo, Fiorentina's Martin Caceres and Udinese's Ilija Nestrovski, foreground, vie for the ball during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Udinese and Fiorentina, at the Dacia Arena stadium in Udine, Italy. Udinese president Giampaolo Pozzo recalled that the team was quarantined, after learning that Fiorentina -- the team it faced on March 8 a day before the league was suspended -- had three players who tested positive for COVID-19. (Andrea Bressanutti/LaPresse via AP)

ROME – After nearly 35 years of club ownership — more than anyone else in Serie A — Udinese’s Gianpaolo Pozzo is drawing on his decades of experience to confront the crisis brought on by the coronavirus.

Perhaps that’s why he prefers to be more cautious than most of his peers who are anxious to get the season — and the Italian league’s TV contract income — going again as soon as possible.

Pozzo, who turns 79 on Monday, has been adamant that the league needs a full month of training before restarting games.

That means he thinks the league’s aim of restarting the weekend of June 13-14 is “impossible” without producing a series of player injuries.

“At the minimum, we need a month to have a proper preparation like we do every year before starting the season,” Pozzo said in an interview with The Associated Press this week, when clubs were given the go-ahead from the government to resume full team training.

“Whereas we’re being super cautious about the virus, then we’re going to be totally careless about everything else?”

Last week, Pozzo angered Serie A officials when he wrote a letter to Italian Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora asking the government to step in and slow the league’s restart. He also asked Spadafora to lighten the responsibility of team physicians if players and club members get sick from the virus.

Udinese, Pozzo recalled, was quarantined after learning that Fiorentina — the team it faced on March 8, a day before the league was suspended — had three players who tested positive for COVID-19.