- in Science
On 6 March, Alessandro Favalli’s life changed when he tested positive for coronavirus.
The Reggio Audace defender would become the second Italian-based footballer to be confirmed as having the illness, after King Udoh of Pianese, another third-tier club.
Italy, after China, has the second-highest number of cases of coronavirus in the world and second-most deaths related to the infectious disease.
Favalli, 27, joined Reggio Audace in January and moved back to the north of the country, where he is from, where he could be closer to his family, something he now values even more.
Speaking on the phone from his home, Favalli talks about enduring the illness, the struggle of being isolated, his frustration with football authorities and Italy’s community spirit in the face of hardship.
- Self-isolating: How families can cope
- Coronavirus: What are the symptoms
- Elite football in England suspended until 30 April
‘I knew straight away what we all had’
“I woke up on Monday, 2 March feeling uncomfortable,” Favalli recalled.
“I had a fever, a headache and my eyes were burning. I already had symptoms during the night, shivering for cold.
“I got suspicious. I already had flu in January. I rang my family and they all had the same symptoms. We’d had a family dinner together a few days before. Since coronavirus was already big at that point in the media and people had already been infected in my area, I knew straight away what we all had.”
Luckily enough, Favalli never felt as bad as some of the more worrying cases he has seen on TV and across the media.
“The fever never went beyond 37.8°C, I had it for three days and by the time I got a swab taken on Friday I was already feeling well,” he said.
“I had a painful headache but that didn’t last long either. I was never really scared for myself, I never felt that bad. I was more worried about some of my relatives, who were hit harder than me, maybe due to their different age and fitness level.”
‘Isolation is mentally difficult’
Immediately after speaking to his family, he went into self-isolation. Living together with his wife, Miriam, Favalli locked himself into a room, leaving the rest of the place to her. She would cook meals and leave a plate in front of his door.
“Miriam had no symptoms. I didn’t want to harm her. I never had a problem with my appetite, I could always eat. I couldn’t taste or smell anything, but I knew that from common flu too,” he said.
“I will have a swab taken in two days, two weeks after being tested positive: If I am negative, I have to repeat it again in a few more days and confirm its result.”
Favalli’s regime before the illness was quiet, but pleasant. Get up in the morning, drive some 40 minutes from his village Solarolo Rainerio to Reggio Emilia for training and back, meet friends, make family plans.
This has all been put on standby for now.
“Isolation is mentally quite difficult. I am used to a more social life. I live with my wife, have my family and friends here in the area. I train every day with team-mates,” said Favalli, who has been able to spend time on his physical education and sports science studies for university.
“The main thing is that everyone gets over this soon, the rest is not so important.
“During the last weeks I felt a lot of affection from present and former team-mates, friends, managers, fans. People call me every day, I have received thousands of messages.
“All people were worried for me and my family; it was nice to see how many people took care of us. If we really want to see some positives in this virus, it has taught me how important people around you are.”
Flashmobs and songs – ‘so typically Italian’
Italians across the country have been finding their own ways to fill time and raise a smile, even in difficult circumstances, including a breakout of applause for health workers from people on their balconies and impromptu musical performances across terraces.
“Those flashmobs with people singing and playing music from their balconies have impressed me; nothing happened here in my village though, it’s too small and my house has fields and crops only around it,” said Favalli.
“I saw them on TV and I could only smile: This is so typically Italian. At the same time, it was very emotional to hear people singing our national anthem. We are all in this together and we need to be close even though we cannot do it physically.”
‘I was astonished clubs and leagues wanted to carry on’
The concept of social distancing should have applied to Italian football earlier, he says.
Some matches were suspended in mid-February, followed by a ruling on 3 March that Serie A games would be played behind closed doors.
But it was not until 10 March that Italian football was officially suspended.
“I was involved personally and I was astonished to see professional clubs and leagues wanted to carry on playing,” he said.
“Even doing so behind closed doors was the wrong decision. A player has a personal life too, he can get infected off the pitch and take it onto it.
“I guess the issue was not taken seriously enough. I am sure if a Serie A player had been found positive at that time, they would have stopped immediately.
“The only thing that counts is to fight this virus together, being responsible and staying at home.
“Hopefully we can start playing again soon, but that is secondary and also quite difficult to imagine now.”