Italian soccer resumes in eerie silence

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Italian soccer resumes in eerie silence

Juventus players warm-up before an Italian Cup second leg soccer match between Juventus and AC Milan at the Allianz stadium, in Turin, Italy, Friday, June 12, 2020. The match was being played without spectators because of the coronavirus lockdown. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

TURIN, Italy (AP) — Soccer finally resumed in Italy – in a surreal atmosphere.

Just as for every previous home game, the Allianz Stadium announcer introduced the home team with a booming »Ladies and gentlemen … Juventus Football Club.»

Only, this time, there was a resounding silence.

The catchy Juventus anthem which is normally sung enthusiastically by 40,000 fans holding their scarves above their heads was still played loudly over the tannoy, but to an empty stadium.

And Juventus and AC Milan walked out separately to eerie silence for the second leg of their Italian Cup semifinal on Friday.

No fans are allowed into the stadiums after the coronavirus pandemic halted soccer three months ago. Juve and Milan played the first leg to 1-1 before the season was stopped on March 9.

Serie A is set to restart on June 20.

New rules limit the maximum number of people in stadiums to 300, including the teams, officials and media. The absence of fans meant the players voices could clearly be heard and they echoed inside the cavernous stadium, as did the applause and jeers from the team benches.

There were a handful of fans outside the stadium to welcome the Juventus team bus, including one supporter who had driven from Bergamo, nearly 200 kilometers (120 miles) away.

More than 34,000 known people have died from COVID-19 in Italy. In their memory, there was a minute’s silence before kickoff.

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