Coronavirus: CBF acts after Brazilian clubs complain at being forced to play

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March 16 – Following club protests, the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has suspended all national football competitions for an indefinite period, but the state federations control the immediate future of state championships that dominate the domestic calendar until the end of April. 

In a statement Brazil’s football governing body said: “The Brazilian Football Confederation decided to suspend, from this Monday, March 16, for an indefinite period, the national competitions under its coordination that are in progress: Copa do Brasil, Brazilian Women’s Championships A1 and A2, Championship Brazilian U-17 and Copa do Brasil U-20.”

“CBF will remain in permanent contact with the Ministry of Health, joining efforts so that the country and the sport overcome the great challenge in relation to the pandemic, hoping that, as soon as possible, we can return to normality.”

Last week, the CBF decided that games should be played behind closed doors, but that measure elicited strong criticism from the clubs. On Sunday, Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi offered a rebuke of what he considered a half-hearted measure from the CBF, after his players and him wore face masks emerging from the tunnel at the empty Gremio Arena before the match against Sao Luiz.

“It is time for Gremio to take a stand and that was to wear masks to alert authorities that players are people too,” said Portaluppi. “We are not immune to viruses. There’s no point in closing the doors to fans. So the fans are protected and screw those who work in football.”

“The whole world has stopped, shouldn’t Brazilian football stop as well? That’s our message and I hope they listen. We hope that good sense will prevail.”

Hours later, the CBF announced the indefinite suspension. Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus had also cautioned against playing behind closed doors, arguing that players needed to be protected because “they are not super human”.

In the statement CBF president Rogerio Caboclo said that “We know and assume the responsibility of football in the fight against the expansion of COVID-19 in Brazil.”

The indefinite suspension, however, doesn’t entirely rule out the continuation of the state championships, the traditional precursor of Brazil’s regular season, as the CBF doesn’t have the autonomy to postpone the competition. On Monday, state federations will meet in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to discuss the situation.

Brazil’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak has been slow in general. Last Friday, recommendations of health authorities finally suggested postponements and cancellations to all organisers of sporting events in the nation, leaving actual decisions to the state governments.

On Sunday, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro was heavily criticized around the world for mingling with his supporters outside the presidential palace in Brasilia. His own medical team had advised him to stay in quarantine following a number of positive tests in his direct entourage.

“Although I suggested (a postponement), I can’t order anything because this protest isn’t mine,” said Bolsonaro. “With everything against them – the press, the virus, the recommendations – the people took to the streets.”

Contact the writer of this story, Samndra Kunti, at moc.l1585728124labto1585728124ofdlr1585728124owedi1585728124sni@o1585728124fni1585728124