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Hindsight Is 20/20 — Here Are 5 Games From March 2020 That Were Totally Covid-19 Super-Spreaders

Little did we know what was waiting for us.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. To be as straight-up as possible, this was the day that shit hit the fan for Americans.

March 11 was the turning point for the U.S. and the moment the severity of the virus became real for so many. In the span of only a couple hours the NBA shut down, Tom Hanks tested positive and Donald Trump announced plans for a European travel ban.

You know the rest of the story as you’re still living it.  

What you might not remember are some of the final soccer games played that had fans in attendance. A year on we have a greater understanding of the virus and of the methods to slow its spread. This knowledge wasn’t commonplace in March 2020 and it shows.

Here are five games from March 2020 that we didn’t realize at the time were Covid-19 super-spreader events.

5 March 2020 Games That Were Totally Covid-19 Super-Spreaders

5. Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew

Date: March 7

Where: CenturyLink Field

Attendance: 33,080

Washington state reported the first case of Covid-19 on Jan. 19. A man who had recently been to Wuhan, China, tested positive just outside Seattle. 

With testing being so limited, the real number of positive cases in Washington at the time of the Sounders game is a mystery. On March 7, the state reported 24 new cases, but the real number of positives was likely way higher.

And so over 30,000 people packed into CenturyLink Field to watch the Sounders and Crew draw 1-1. The official attendance was actually the lowest in Sounders’ history for a regular season game. Fears over Covid-19 kept a plethora of fans home. Those who stayed home made the wise decision.

In the two weeks following the game the state saw a massive spike in cases. The official tally 14 days after the game was 1,545 new positive cases, the actual number was probably 10 times that.

MLS would suspend its season five days after the Sounders game.

4. Liverpool vs. Atletico Madrid

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Date: March 11, 2021

Where: Anfield

Attendance: 52,267

The duel between Liverpool and Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16 was only one of two matchups to feature fans for the second leg. The other Champions League clash on March 11 saw PSG defeat Borussia Dortmund in an empty Parc des Princes.

The situation was a Covid nightmare in hindsight. Thousands of fans from Spain traveling to Liverpool to mix and mingle with tens of thousands of English fans all cramped like sardines. The virus was having a field day at Anfield that night.

Jurgen Klopp reportedly stated that going through with the game that night was a “criminal act.” The weeks after the Champions League fixture saw a massive rise in cases throughout the area.

A study done by Edge Health reported that the game being played is responsible for as many as 41 Covid-19 deaths.

3. NYCFC vs. Tigres

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Date: March 11

Where: Red Bull Arena

Attendance: 10,212

On the same night that everything went to hell in the U.S. there was a Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 game.

In a coincidence that possibly saved lives, NYCFC was forced to host the game in its greatest rival’s stadium at Red Bull Arena. This was done due to stadium renovations at Yankee Stadium. The result was a much smaller turnout that lessened the impact of the super-spreader event.

Covid-19 ravaged New York City and New Jersey in March and April of 2020 and packing over 10,000 people into Red Bull Arena certainly didn’t help.

2. Rangers vs. Bayer Leverkusen

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Date: March 12

Where: Ibrox Stadium (Glasgow)

Attendance: 47,494

While nearly every other Europa League Round of 16 tie was played in an empty stadium, Rangers played in front of a packed Ibrox Stadium. Nearly 1,000 Leverkusen fans gleefully traveled to Scotland for the game as Germany had banned fans from attending games at that point.

Only an hour after the game finished the Premier League suspended its season after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta tested positive for Covid-19.

Rangers fans have come full circle since their first super-spreader event last year and had another large gathering after their team clinched the Scottish Premiership.

1. Atalanta vs. Valencia

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Date: Feb. 19 (Not in March, I know. Sue me)

Where: San Siro

Attendance: 44,236

Covid-19 placed its deadly grip on Italy long before it reached the U.S. and rest of Europe. Atalanta’s home leg in the Round of 16 has been dubbed a “biological bomb.” This was one of the first super-spreader events.

With Atalanta unable to host the home leg in its own stadium, the team — and a third of Bergamo’s population — headed to San Siro Stadium to host Valencia.

The game proved disastrous.

Bergamo reported its first cases less than a week after the game and became the epicenter of the virus. In March and April, Bergamo saw two percent of its population (around 120,000) die from Covid-19.

The traveling Valencia fans brought the virus back to Spain and saw 2,600 new infections in their region several days after the game took place. Nearly 35 percent of the Valencia roster tested positive following the trip to Italy.

To top it all off, Atalanta manager Gian Piero Gasperini likely managed the game with Covid-19. Gasperini later admitted he had the symptoms of the virus during the clash.

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