Italian Official Calls Soccer Fans' Street Celebration 'Dangerous Behavior'

Italian Deputy Health Minister Sandra Zampa called the street celebrations of Napoli soccer fans "dangerous behavior."

Thousands of supporters took to the streets of Naples on Wednesday night to celebrate their team's first Italian Cup title in six years after Napoli beat Juventus in an empty stadium in Rome. Fans without face masks flooded into crowded central piazzas, celebrating with fireworks well into Thursday morning.

Several health officials have criticized the celebrations and their lack of safety measures amid the new coronavirus pandemic.

World Health Organization assistant director general Raineri Guerra called the decision to celebrate on the streets "reckless."

"Right now we can't permit these things," Guerra said. He added the scenes reminded him of the Atalanta's Champions League game in February that was believed to be the reason COVID-19 became so deadly in the northern Italian city of Bergamo.

Napoli street celebrations
Soccer fans celebrate in downtown Naples after Napoli won the TIM Italian Cup against Juventus on June 17, 2020 in an empty stadium in Rome, Italy. Carlo Hermann/AFP

Wednesday's events did not come as a surprise to Naples Mayor Luigi De Magistris, who thought the fans celebrations in piazzas and the city's train station were unavoidable.

"Either the games shouldn't have been played until September or in some way what happened the other night was inevitable," he told The Associated Press.

De Magistris' only criticism was of those who jumped into historic fountains. Napoli fans also filled the city's main rail station as their home team arrived back from Rome, causing the winners to pull into a secondary station instead.

With former Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri and Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain on the rival team, the mayor said the game against Juventus meant more to fans than any other soccer game. The Italian Cup semifinals only resumed last week after the government ended the sport's three-month hiatus because of the global health crisis.

"Only people who don't know Naples could think that after a victory over the Juventus of Sarri and Higuain that Neapolitans would remain at home to celebrate," De Magistris said. "But that doesn't mean people in the city are taking the virus lightly, because since about the start of June the contagion level in Naples has been zero."

Naples is part of Italy's Campania region, which has accounted for 431 of the 35,414 Italians who have died from the virus.

Italy was the center of the pandemic in Europe back in March, and the country was placed under strict lockdown measures in hopes of limiting the spread of coronavirus. Since then, the government has begun easing restrictions as of early May and the country officially reopened their international borders early this month.

Italian soccer games are expected to be played in empty stadiums, although De Magistris and soccer officials have asked for spectators to be allowed into arenas as long as they follow appropriate social distancing protocols.

However, a prominent member of the scientific committee tasked with advising the Italian government about containing the outbreak says "it's too soon." Franco Locatelli, who is also a pediatric oncologist at Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, told AP: "We're still in a phase in which the virus is circulating."

Newsweek reached out to the Italian government for comment but did not hear back before publication.