Atalanta coach feared for his life as he fought virus

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini. (AP file photo)
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Updated 31 May 2020

Atalanta coach feared for his life as he fought virus

ROME: When Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini was struggling with the coronavirus in mid-March, the prospect of entering Bergamo’s hospital — which was overflowing with COVID-19 patients at the time —  made him fear for his life.

“Every two minutes an ambulance passed by … It seemed like a war,” Gasperini said. “At night, I would think, ‘If go in there (the hospital), what will happen to me?’”

Fortunately for Gasperini, he quickly recovered and did not have to check into the Pope John XXIII hospital. The coach only recently confirmed that he had the virus when the entire team was tested 10 days ago, he said in an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport published on Sunday.

The 62-year-old Gasperini started feeling sick on March 9, a day before Atalanta played at Valencia in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16.

He said that when he returned to Bergamo, which was quickly becoming the epicenter of the pandemic, “I didn’t have a fever but I felt destroyed and as if I had a 40-degree (Celsius, or 104 Fahrenheit) fever.”

Many experts have pointed to the first leg game between Atalanta and Valencia on Feb. 19 in Milan as one of the biggest reasons why the virus was so deadly in Bergamo. The match has been dubbed “Game Zero” by the local media.

With the virus advancing rapidly across Europe, the second leg in Valencia was played without fans. Still, more than 35% of Valencia’s team became infected.

More than 16,000 people have died from the virus in the Lombardy region containing Bergamo, which has been one of the hardest-hit cities.

“It will take years to really understand what happened,” Gasperini said. “Every time I think about it, it seems absurd: The high point of our sporting (achievement) coincided with the city’s deepest pain.

“I feel more Bergamasco now,” added Gasperini, who is from the Turin area.

Previously the only member of Atalanta who was confirmed as testing positive for the virus was reserve goalkeeper Marco Sportiello.

Atalanta advanced to the quarterfinals on 8-4 aggregate but has not played since then with soccer not due to restart in Italy until mid-June.

“Atalanta can help Bergamo recover, while respecting the pain and those in mourning,” Gasperini said. “It will take time to see people celebrating again in the piazzas or at the airport, but the Bergamaschi keep their fires burning under the ashes.

“There isn’t one player who left the city. More than one of them lost weight, which could also be the sign of psychological issues,” the coach added. “It’s difficult to read everyone’s repressed emotional state. Some of them had their families far away.

“One thing for sure, though, is that the squad remained connected with Bergamo’s suffering and it will bring that out onto the field.”


Kuzma’s 3-pointer lifts Lakers past Nuggets

Updated 12 August 2020

Kuzma’s 3-pointer lifts Lakers past Nuggets

  • The Lakers had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference before their losing streak started

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.: Kyle Kuzma hit a 3-pointer with .4 seconds left and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets 124-121 Monday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

LeBron James threw an inbounds pass to Anthony Davis, who flipped it to Kuzma on the right wing for the game-winner as the clock ran down.

The Lakers, outplayed down the stretch by Denver’s bench, got 29 points and 12 assists from James, who hit two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Anthony Davis had 27 points and Kuzma 25.

P.J. Dozier had a chance to put the Nuggets up by one with 4.4 seconds left but missed the second of two free throws. Kuzma rebounded and the Lakers called timeout to set up the winning play.

Dozier had been fouled by Kuzma while driving the lane after a miss by James.

James had given the Lakers a 121-119 lead by converting a 3-point play with 45.7 seconds to go. Monte Morris made one of two free throws for the Nuggets.

The Lakers had clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference before their losing streak started. They are 3-4 in the bubble with one game to go.

Dozier scored 18 and Michael Porter Jr. had 15 for the Nuggets, who are currently the No. 3 seed in the West.

The Lakers took an 87-80 lead late in the third quarter after two buckets by Kuzma and two free throws by Davis. But the Nuggets went on an 8-1 run to finish the quarter in an 88-88 tie. Mason Plumlee made a jumper and Bol Bol and Morris each made a 3-pointer

Davis grabbed the rebound of Kuzma’s miss for a slam dunk at the halftime buzzer that gave the Lakers a 64-59 halftime lead. 

Davis also made a similar play off miss by Kuzma in the last minute of the first quarter.