Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the suspension of all sports activities until April 3 including the top-flight Serie A football league, as Italy works on the coronavirus crisis.
The final Serie A game before government announcement was between Sassuolo and Brescia which happened behind closed doors in Reggio Emilia on Monday.
Francesco Caputo held up a handwritten message on piece of paper, urging fans: “Everything will be fine. Stay at home.”
“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarized as follows: I stay at home, There is no reason why matches and sporting events should continue and I am thinking of the football championship. I’m sorry but all the fans must take note of it, we will not even allow gyms to be used for sports activities,” said Conte
The measures include the closure of schools, universities and the suspension of sports competitions.
The decree allows the possibility of organising matches under international jurisdiction behind closed doors, such as ties in UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League.
Juventus are due to host Lyon in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Turin next week. Inter Milan are due to host Spain’s Getafe in the Europa League on Thursday while Roma welcome Sevilla a week later.
Since Sunday, there had been growing calls to stop sports competitions and in particular Serie A, with lower football leagues already paused.
Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora called for the suspension of Serie A while Italian Footballers.
Damiano Tommasi tweeted that “stopping football is the most useful thing for our country right now”.
Several Italian federations, such as those in swimming and winter sports, announced the end of competitive activities, joining rugby and volleyball which had been already suspended.
Serie A is now frozen after 26 games out of 38 in the season, with eight-time reigning champions Juventus leading the table one point ahead of Lazio. Inter Milan are third, nine points behind, with a game in hand.
At least three rounds of matches will need to be rearranged after April 3 before the end of the season scheduled for May 24.
The Euro 2020 is set to kick off on June 12 and might face an unprecedented cancellation.
In 1973 a cholera epidemic which left 227 dead in Italy, including more than 170 in Naples, did not stop “calcio” in the football-mad country.