Roma chief plays down Moscow strip club visit

Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini has played down confirmed reports of players visiting a Moscow strip club after a night of Champions League football that has dented their last 16 hopes.

Roma chief plays down Moscow strip club visit
AS Roma drew 1-1 with Group E rivals CSKA Moscow. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Russian press reports on Wednesday claimed that some of the Serie A club's players visited the 'Egoist Gold' strip club in the Russian capital following a damaging 1-1 draw with Group E rivals CSKA Moscow.

However,Sabatini told Radio Roma on Thursday: "The players were allowed a couple of hours off. Some came back after two and a half hours, but we're a liberal club."

Roma, who beat CSKA 5-1 in their Group E opener, looked to have done enough to beat the Russians again thanks to Francesco Totti's free kick in the 43rd minute.

But just seconds from the full-time whistle, late substitute Kevin Strootman lost possession in midfield, setting up Vasily Berezutsky to float in a cross which ended up in the visitors' net.

A Roma win coupled with a Bayern Munich victory at Manchester City would have secured the Italian side's qualification for the Champions League knockout phase alongside Bayern for the first time since 2011.

Instead, CSKA's leveller in the earlier Moscow fixture provided the inspiration for City ahead of their stunning 3-2 win over the Germans thanks to a Sergio Aguero treble, including an injury-time winner, at Etihad Stadium.

Sabatini admitted the night's sequence of events had prompted management to loosen up.

"After the result in Manchester the team needed a little distraction and they did so in a spirit of friendship and togetherness," he added.

"We're happy they wanted to do something enjoyable together. I didn't have the official strip on, or else I would have gone myself!"

Marco Borriello, one of the players pictured in the reports, posted a message on Twitter on Thursday which said nothing untoward had occurred.

"It was an evening only for the pleasure of being out together!!! Thankfully, I don't need any kind of club to do other things," Borriello said.

Roma still have chances to qualify for the lucrative Champions League last 16 if they beat City at the Olympic Stadium next month. A draw would also be sufficient, as long as CSKA draw away to Bayern.

Thanks to their 1-1 draw at City in September, Roma can also go through with a scoreless draw against City, but only as long as CSKA lose to Bayern.

Any other result would almost certainly see Roma eliminated.

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Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.