FIBA referees Marziali, Giovannetti on front lines in fight against COVID-19 as doctors
ROME (Italy) - The lives of so many have been turned upside down in the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially in Italy, a country where there have been a confirmed 100,000 cases of the disease and more than 11,000 deaths.
For two FIBA referees, Silvia Marziali and Guido Giovannetti, the crisis has taken them off the basketball court, with all league play having ceased in the country a month ago. Both have instead turned their full attention to their main occupation as doctors to help in the fight against the coronavirus.
"WHEN YOU BECOME A DOCTOR, YOU MAKE A PROMISE AND YOU HONOR IT EVERY TIME YOU WORK AND ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE IS AN EMERGENCY. YOU MAKE AN OATH TO HELP OTHERS." - Marziali
"Now the situation is very tough and changing every day," said Giovannetti, a FIBA referee since 2017. "The government is always asking for more help from doctors.
"In my personal case, I'm working in the Bari hospital and previously, I was in the cardiology department but now, I've been moved into a different department for COVID-19 patients.
"The real problem is we don't know when it will end because in some parts of Italy, like Lombardy, Milan, maybe the situation is already coming to the peak, while our fear is that in the south, the situation is not decreasing and maybe the people that have moved from the north to the south have spread it. We just don't know, but numbers suggest we are increasing."
Marziali is based in Rome, where she studied medicine and wrote her thesis on cardiology.
"THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A LITTLE BIT OF FEAR, BUT IT'S LIKE MY MAIN FOCUS WHEN I'M OFFICIATING, TO STAY CALM AND SERENE BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO FACE IT, YOU DON'T HAVE ANY CHOICE."
It can be hard tracking her down because as a doctor, she can be found in various places. Marziali works at a hospital in her hometown of Fermo and for the Ambulance and Emergency Services in Rome. Most recently, she has been working for the ministry of health at Civitavecchia, the port city of Rome.
She is willing to do whatever it takes to combat the pandemic.
"When you become a doctor, you make a promise," she said, "and you honor it every time you work and especially when there is an emergency. You make an oath to help others."
Marziali's father (right) is also a doctor
The strain on hospitals, doctors and everything related to medical services has been enormous in Italy.
"When this coronavirus started, I really wanted to help," Marziali said. "It didn't matter what. Whatever I could do, I would do. It doesn't matter if I have to move to the north of Italy, where it's really a disaster, a catastrophe. A lot of us said yes to going there but I can’t sign the agreement to do so because I'm already on the staff here in Rome.
"Work is always hard and we always work a lot doing long shifts," Marziali said. "But now you have more fears because you can bring the virus to your family and you can be infected, also."
The equipment that Giovannetti and his colleagues wear includes masks, special suits, boots and gloves. At the end of his shift, he must be sprayed down as he removes each article.
Giovannetti says of possible exposure to the coronavirus: "For sure there will always be a little bit of fear, but it's like my main focus when I'm officiating, to stay calm and serene because you have to face it, you don't have any choice. Also, if there are some issues with all the uniforms you have to wear because it's contagious, you have to face it, even if it's not comfortable to do."
"I AM WHO I AM BECAUSE OF WHAT I DO IN BASKETBALL AND MEDICINE. I ALWAYS TRY TO BALANCE THESE TWO ASPECTS OF MY LIFE. THEY ARE MY TWO PASSIONS AND I CAN'T JUST HAVE ONE AND NOT THE OTHER."
Giovannetti, who studied medicine at the University of Perugia and is now in his second year of specialization, has followed in his parents' footsteps.
"My parents are both doctors but they didn't oblige me to become a doctor, it was my choice," he said. "From a young age, though, it was my idea of work, my dream to become a doctor, to work for and with patients and to help people. I have always wanted to be important for patients and offer more than simple therapy and medicine. I want to have a real exchange of thoughts and feelings with them."
Both Marziali, whose father is also a doctor, and Giovannetti say that basketball gives them more balance in life.
"I am who I am because of what I do in basketball and medicine," Marziali said. "I always try to balance these two aspects of my life. They are my two passions and I can't just have one and not the other."
Marziali says that basketball helps define her as a person, and in some ways helps her overall mental approach to life.
"Basketball gives me the option to have an open mind, to challenge me, to improve as a person, to have a devotion," she said. "Thanks to FIBA, I really discovered Europe, met a lot of new people from other countries, and those are two aspects that are very important to me. FIBA opened my mind more and more. It's helped me to be a better person. I can't be the same person without basketball, of course."
"Basketball is a very big passion for me and sports in general and it's important to have a good balance between sports activity and work," Giovannetti said. "The basic thing is to create a good balance in your life. I think everyone should have a passion outside of work to pursue."
Both work in Italy’s domestic leagues but also numerous FIBA competitions.
In fact, Marziali made history by becoming her country's first female international referee in October, 2017, at the age of 29, when just a couple of days after graduating from medical school, she flew to Girona, Spain, to officiate a EuroCup Women contest.
Before Marziali and Giovannetti can return to the basketball courts, however, they will be engaged in a far more important battle. They will be fighting to save lives.