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Fiorentina players leaving for international duty despite local ban

Nobody wins here except FIFA and the continental confederations, who get to rack in the cash from another round of international matches that could wreak havoc on calcio.

ACF Fiorentina v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Pour one out for Trevor, who did a hell of a job summing up an absurdly complicated situation a couple days ago, because things have taken yet another turn. Six Fiorentina players have now left Florence to represent their countries on international duty despite the local health authorities ordering all players to shelter in place as coronavirus infection rates soar throughout the country.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti enacted a new set of rules and restrictions on 6 November, including strict curfews for pedestrian and vehicle traffic, closure of museums, limited hours for restaurants and shops, and a travel ban. In Tuscany, these orders took effect yesterday (Wednesday, 11 November).

It’s the travel ban that’s at issue here. Per Conti’s orders, nobody should be leaving their region or city for any reason other than “work, study, health reasons or in situations of need.” Because representing your nation’s national soccer team is voluntary (although there is money at stake at well), players based in Tuscany are barred from leaving the area for international duty.

The international break, however, is proceeding regardless of those measures, which has put players in a truly difficult bind: they follow the local regulations, prioritize their own health, and stay home; or they can represent their countries in major tournament qualifiers. While it’s easy for most of us, who are not world-class athletes, to choose the former, the FAs of various nations have been applying pressure to their players to bring them back.

The upshot is that six Fiorentina players have left or will shortly leave the city for international duty: Erick Pulgar (Chile), Lucas Martínez Quarta (Argentina), Martín Cáceres (Uruguay), and Sofyan Amrabat (Morocco) and Nikola Milenković and Dušan Vlahović (Serbia) are expected to join Serbia shortly. Fiorentina, in turn, has duly reported their departures to the local health authorities.

The five Viola players called up for Italy (at both senior and youth levels)—Federico Brancolini, Patrick Cutrone, Gaetano Castrovilli, Cristiano Biraghi, and Christian Dalle Mura—will stay in Florence and miss their Azzurri fixtures, which makes sense as national team mister Roberto Mancini is currently self-isolating due to the disease.

It’s an absolutely wild situation. Don’t forget that Pulgar, Cáceres, and Vlahović have all battled back from the virus already, while club teammate José Callejón is currently fighting it. Too, remember last month’s international break, which saw the likes of C******o R*****o contract the virus while away from Juventus. This is an extremely dangerous situation no matter how you slice it, and we hope, first and foremost, that everyone stays safe.

As gross as it feels to discuss the repercussions in the league when people’s lives are at risk, we’ll dive in because that’s sort of why this website exists. These six players will likely be quarantined for at least a week and possibly two upon their return to Italy. Should that come to pass, they’ll likely miss the games against Benevento in Serie A and Udinese in the Coppa Italia, and could be unavailable for the tilt at AC Milan as well, which would place new manager Cesare Prandelli in a deeply difficult situation as he starts his tenure.

If the league office decides to dock Fiorentina points for allowing their players to break federal guidelines, we could also see a deduction in points; while that seems absurd, take a look at how Napoli fared in their recent appeal of the Juve result for an idea of how harsh Serie A can be. We could also be looking at suspensions for the players in question once they clear quarantine.

There aren’t any easy answers for these unprecedented circumstances. Players shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their countries, and teams shouldn’t have be have to deal with the fallout. The only sensible solution here would have been for FIFA, UEFA, AFCON, and CONMBEBOL (as well as the other federations) to postpone all these games until a later date, when traveling wouldn’t pose legal, ethical, and hygienic concerns.

As ever in international sports, though, those factors are vastly outweighed by the twin specters of profit and prestige, no matter who gets hurt. Until team owners, leagues, and supporters condemn these grubby attempts to cash in during the worst global pandemic in at least a century, they’ll continue unabated. As crises go, that pales in comparison to Covid-19, but it’s still something that everyone should rally against until FIFA and its ilk are finally flushed down the drain.