Had it not been for the impact of the new crown epidemic, Atlanta would usher in the most important game in club history this week, and the residents of Bergamo would happily talk about the team on the street.
But the situation now is: the streets of Bergamo are almost empty. You can only hear the sirens of ambulances and the bells of the church for those who died of new coronary pneumonia.
Now it has been six weeks since Atlanta beat Valencia 4-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals. In these six weeks, Bergamo has been the “epicenter” of the global new crown epidemic. What is even more sad is that some people think that the game accelerated the spread of the virus to some extent.
Atalanta also won the second leg of the match against Valencia (empty), reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in history. But they don't know who their next opponent will be, because most of the football matches in Europe have been suspended before the Champions League quarterfinal draw.
Atlanta has no big-name players and the club’s operating budget is relatively limited, but it has become one of the most interesting teams in Europe. Like this team, Atlanta fans are using collective power to help Bergamo weather the crisis.
Gasperini changed Atlanta. He used a 3-4-3 formation on the team to promote local young players. At the same time, he signed a group of veterans who have played for multiple teams and have extensive experience at a lower cost.
Atlanta's game style is both spectative and risky, but it's generally effective. In the past three seasons, Atlanta has ranked 4th, 7th and 3rd in Serie A and also reached the Coppa Italia final last year.
In the Atlanta team, the humble and selfless 32-year-old captain Alejandro Gomez is the fan’s favorite player. Now he and Gasperini have become the honorary citizens of Bergamo. The image often appears in the murals of this city. In the 2016-17 season, Gomez's iconic goal celebration dance set off a wave on social media, and later entered the popular online game "Fortress Night".
No matter who the opponent is, Atlanta will never rely on one or two key players. In the UEFA Champions League this season, Atalanta has scored 10 players, this data leads all teams participating in the Champions League.
When the Champions League group stage was halfway through, Atlanta's adventure seemed to be over. Surprisingly, however, Atlanta completed a shocking reversal in the next few rounds and became the first club in the history of the Champions League to enter the knockout stage after a three-game losing streak.
In hindsight, the 0-3 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk in the away game was crucial-when the team arrived in Bergamo at 2 o'clock in the morning, 2000 fans braved the cold wind to welcome the players home.
As the club’s home stadium does not meet UEFA’s requirements, Atlanta had to play this season’s Champions League home game at AC Milan’s San Siro. The average number of spectators per game in Atlanta's home games was about 17,600, but on the day of the match against Valencia, more than 40,000 fans (more than one-third of Bergamo's total population) went to Milan, 37 miles away, to cheer them. Milan is only about a 40-minute drive from Bergamo, but due to traffic jams, many fans spend 3 hours on the road.
And in Bergamo (in this city, the Atlanta club will give each newborn baby free milk and a jersey), fans also gathered at home or bar to watch the game.
After 60 minutes of the game, Atlanta took a 4-0 lead and finally won easily with a score of 4-1. From Milan to Bergamo, every time Atlanta scored a goal, the fans would embrace and celebrate... At the time, no one knew what would happen next.
Just two days after Atlanta's home game against Valencia, the first batch of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia appeared in the Lombardy region where Bergamo is located.
On March 1, before a Serie A match between Atlanta and Lecce, fans need to be tested for symptoms of the new crown. Atlanta won 7-2 and Columbia forward Duwan Zapata performed a hat trick. That was the third time Atlanta scored 7 goals so far this season.
In the past two seasons, Serie A players have completed 12 hat tricks, of which Atlanta players accounted for 7 times. In addition, Atlanta has led the Serie A goal list for two consecutive seasons.
Before the second round of the Champions League knockout match between Atlanta and Valencia on March 10, Serie A had been suspended, and the whole of Italy was "closed". However, Atlanta was allowed to travel to Spain and played an empty game with Valencia. Approximately 2,000 local fans gathered outside the Mestalla stadium to cheer for the home team. Valencia once led 3-2, but Atlanta eventually won 4-3. Ilicic scored four dollars and will score this season. The number of balls increased to 21.
Ilicic and his teammates celebrated the goal in a stadium without spectators. He held a T-shirt in his hand and said "Bergamo, we will play for you, don't give up."
This time, when the Atlanta team returned to Bergamo, no one held a welcome banquet for them-the club called on the fans to stay home.
"We were very happy 1 hour ago, but when it comes to Bergamo, we are sad." Dutch midfielder De Jongen said. "I never thought about facing a situation like this. There was no one on the street. You. Only the sound of ambulances and the bells of the church for those who died unfortunately can be heard."
In 1963, Atlanta won the Coppa Italia, but the celebration of the fans did not last long, because just the day after the team won the championship, Pope John XXIII, born in Bergamo, died.
Today, in the Pope John XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, medical staff are facing tremendous pressure from the spread of the new crown epidemic. Due to the surge in the number of confirmed cases of new coronary pneumonia, this hospital had to refuse to admit some patients. At the same time, the Italian government also sent military vehicles to transport the coffins to the crematorium outside the city... In March this year, in the province of Bergamo, which has a population of approximately 1.1 million, 2060 people died of the new crown virus. Zaccharia Cometti, the goalkeeper who played for Atlanta in 1963, also died last week.
But this tragedy made Atlanta fans more united. Approximately 1,200 fans received ticket refunds for the second round of the Champions League knockout match between Atlanta and Valencia, and they all donated the money to the hospital and a local nursing home (a total donation of 65,000 euros). Ilicic also donated the game balls he got after the big four to use for auction fundraising.
"In Bergamo, the heroes are working in a situation where supplies are in short supply and are making every effort for the health of everyone." On Facebook, the Atlanta fan organization Curva Nord wrote in a post.
A 200-bed temporary hospital was built in Bergamo within 10 days. The Atlanta Club and the main sponsor were responsible for purchasing medical equipment, and Curva Nord members also participated in the construction of the hospital.
The Atlanta youth team also performed well in the European Youth League this season. Gasperini will have the resources to continue to rebuild the team in the future and bring happiness to the people of Bergamo.
Zapata told the fans: "After this dark period is over, we will have a big party."
No one knows that the new crown epidemic will end, but in any case, the people of Bergamo will one day talk about Atlanta excitedly again. They will need each other more than ever before.