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FOOTBALL

Italian Spalletti eyed for Japan job: report

Japanese football officials maintained a stony silence over their search for a new national team coach on Thursday, as former Roma boss Luciano Spalletti was strongly linked to the job.

Italian Spalletti eyed for Japan job: report
Italian Spalletti led Zenit St Petersburg to two Russian titles in his last managerial post. Luciano Spalletti photo: Shutterstock

Italian Spalletti, 55, who led Zenit St Petersburg to two Russian titles in his last managerial post, emerged as the leading candidate to replace Mexican Javier Aguirre who was sacked earlier this month over his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal dating back to a previous tenure in Spain.

Official word over the identity of the new coach remains shrouded in secrecy, however, despite rife speculation in local media, and with the Japan Football Association (JFA) under pressure to appoint Aguirre's successor before the four-times Asian champions begin their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in June.

"The issue of the next coach has yet to be decided and we are not making any comment at this point," said a JFA spokeswoman. "Ideally we would like to make a decision before the friendly matches in March but the issue is still under consideration."

Japan face Tunisia on March 27th and another game against as-yet-unnamed opponents on March 31st. The JFA will be anxious to have the new coach in place before June to allow him time to cast his eye over the domestic J-League, following their recent Asian Cup flop where they lost to the UAE in the quarter-finals.

Spalletti's picture was splashed over the front page of Thursday's Nikkan Sports daily, which reported that the JFA had been in touch with the Italian's agent and terms would be discussed in the coming days.

Former Barcelona and Real Madrid star Michael Laudrup, whose two-year spell in charge of English Premier League side Swansea City ended in the Dane's sacking a year ago, has also been linked to the vacant post, along with former England coach Glenn Hoddle and German Felix Magath.

Laudrup, also a target for Queens Park Rangers and currently managing Qatari side Lekhwiya, had a brief spell in the J-League as a player with Vissel Kobe from 1996-97.

JFA officials are wary of the need to hire the right man after the debacle with Aguirre, who arguably left the Blue Samurai in worse shape than he found them following their meek exit from last year's World Cup.

Spalletti was axed by Zenit last year despite leading them to two league titles as well as the Russian Cup and Russian Super Cup since joining the club from Roma in 2009.

He was the first coach to lead Zenit to the knockout stages of the European Champions League during the 2011-12 competition but a slump in form last year prompted the club, owned by state-controlled gas company Gazprom, to terminate his contract.

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FOOTBALL

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.

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