WITH Spain and Italy starting to open up, and football up and running in Germany, there is an obvious temptation for others to follow suit – even if they find themselves in very different circumstances.
On Monday the World Health Organisation expressed their concern at the development of the coronavirus crisis in Central and South America.
Of special concern is Brazil, where the death toll is approaching 30,000 – the fourth largest in the world, with the peak not yet in sight.
And yet there are attempts to restart football.
SHUTDOWN SINCE MARCH
Brazil is a giant country, divided into 27 states. At the time of the shutdown in March the four national divisions had not yet started – they usually get underway in May.
The first few months are given over to regional football, to the championship that takes place in each state.
These competitions were interrupted in March – and hope to resume whenever it is safe to do so – or, in the opinion of some, before.
Rio de Janeiro has been one of the cities most hit by the virus. Even so, there are hopes for a swift restart of the Rio State Championship – and not necessarily behind closed doors.
A RETURN CONSIDERED THIS MONTH
The authorities have been considering a restart without the public later this month, and then from July a limit of one third of stadium capacity.
But not everyone is on board. Two of Rio’s big four, Botafogo and Fluminense, are against an early return, and have not resumed training.
Botafogo director Carlos Augusto Montenegro described the efforts as ‘homicide,’ and made it clear that the club are ready to forfeit points rather than take the field.
Flamengo and Vasco da Gama, meanwhile, are fully in favour, together with the smaller clubs. But they have run into two problems.
The first is opposition from the medical profession.
CLUB DOCTORS COULD BE STRUCK OFF
Cremerj, the Rio medical council, issued a statement describing the moves to start playing games, or even training sessions, as “irresponsible,” pointing out that the small clubs lack the financial resources to take adequate care of their players and staff and advised a 60 day pause to evaluate the development of the coronavirus pandemic.
Cremerj have no power to stop football returning, but they have threatened to strike off any doctors involved with the clubs.
Another complication emerged on Sunday, when Vasco announced the results of the coronavirus tests they had carried out.
Three of their players had contracted the virus and since recovered – but a whopping SIXTEEN others tested positive.
It seems, though, that this has not deterred the attempts to get the ball rolling.
With the small clubs desperate for revenue, a resumption this month looks increasingly likely.
It is, of course, a gamble. Should it prove premature there is the chance of more lives needlessly lost, and the prospect that it might serve as a prelude to another shutdown.
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