Brazil death toll keeps rising but CBF says June return is possible

May 20 – On Tuesday, Brazil registered a new high of 1,179 coronavirus deaths in a single day, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the secretary general of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) Walter Feldman (pictured) from tentatively projecting football’s restart in June in the country. 

The football official took heart from the Bundesliga return. “It was necessary to stop and returning is possible,” said Feldman in an interview with Reuters. “That is what we learnt from the return of football in Germany. Germany is a great sign.”

“Doors open in May, more open in June and I have no doubt that in June, with the return of training, sustained protocols and the chance of flexibility by the health authorities, football can return with restrictions,” said Feldman said.

His positivism contrasts with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic in Brazil, which, under the haphazard policies and erratic rants of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, has become the hardest-hit nation in South America. Cases in Brazil are still on the rise. On Tuesday, the number of single-day confirmed cases jumped to a record 17,408  and a total of 271,628 people have tested positive for the virus.  According to the latest data of the Johns Hopkins University, the pandemic has killed at least 17,983 people in Brazil.

Fears are growing that Brazil will become the next global hotspot of the international health crisis. Current champions Flamengo, however, have restarted training again. On Tuesday, Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim and Vasco Da Gama president Alexandre Campello luncheoned with Bolsonaro in an encounter that was criticized in various quarters of the media and the football industry. Both club are keen on accelerating football’s return and are exploring the possibility of training in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital and Federal District, where they would not face any obstacles from from the government or municipality.

Back home, in Rio de Janeiro, mayor Marcelo Crivella said on Tuesday that a return to training had not yet been authorised. Flamengo now wants to take advantage of its relationship with Ibaneis Rocha, the governor of the Federal District, to circumvent restrictions at home. Last year, Flamengo’s board already demonstrated a keen interest in aligning themselves with Bolsonaro. The club, local media report, is also considering bankrolling the costs of taking the family members of the players to Brasilia in case the club would train in the capital.

The idea comes at a sensitive time for the Rio club. The city has been one of the worst hit in Brazil and its healthy services are about to collapse. In addition to the coronavirus crisis, Rio de Janeiro has seen a spike in police violence in some of the city’s poorest areas. Earlier this week, a fourteen year old was shot dead in Sao Goncalo, a destitute commuter city where Vinicius Junior grew up.

In March, the CBF suspended all Brazilian football indefinitely after protests from players and clubs, and Brazil’s state federations soon to took the CBF’s lead in postponing the state championships. But the shutdown has been a major blow for the majority of small Brazilian clubs, who rely on the income generated by the state championship for survival.

Feldman indicated that the Brazilian top flight, which had been due to kick off at the start of May, could well run into 2021. He said that a restart behind closed doors was likely and that social distancing restrictions would also be implemented.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1591041873labto1591041873ofdlr1591041873owedi1591041873sni@o1591041873fni1591041873