The mayor of Madrid has conceded that it was a “mistake” to allow fans from Madrid to descend on Liverpool for the Champions League clash with Atletico.
By the time the Reds’ last 16 tie against Atletico Madrid was scheduled to take place on March 11, the Spanish capital had enacted a lockdown and LaLiga had announced all fixtures were to go behind closed doors.
Madrid was, at the time, the epicentre of Spain’s coronavirus outbreak and the day of the game at Anfield saw the World Health Organisation declare a pandemic.
Yet, 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans were able to descend on Liverpool and across the UK as they made their way to Merseyside for the last 16 clash – and cases in both Spain and the UK then rose exponentially.
The Reds would succumb to a 3-2 defeat in extra-time and while there are questions over when or even if the competition resumes, Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almedia was clear in his view that neither team should have taken to the field that night.
“It didn’t make any sense that 3,000 Atletico fans could travel to Anfield at that time,” he explained on Spanish radio. “It was a mistake.
“Looking back with hindsight, of course, but I think even at that time there should have been more caution.
“From the day before the game the regional government and Madrid council had already adopted important measures on reducing large gatherings of people.”
And he has not been the only one to speak out what was the last fixture to take place in the UK in front of a full crowd before action was indefinitely postponed.
Jurgen Klopp had voiced his frustration in the build-up and was later said to have felt it was a “criminal” decision, while the city’s new health chief, Matthew Ashton, had explained that “it was not the right decision to stage the match.”
The number of cases on Merseyside rose in the aftermath and while proof of a direct correlation may never arise, the event is likely to have been one of many which contributed to the rise.
From the Government and the governing body, it was a reckless decision for the match to take place as countless of fans and anyone they then interacted with were put at risk.
The situation ensures football rightly remains suspended, where the latest Premier League return dates are ‘tentatively’ pencilled in for mid-June – where any resumption date will see the Reds first meet Everton.