Flamengo break quarantine and return to training in Rio

May 22 – Brazilian champions Flamengo have broken quarantine restrictions in Rio de Janeiro by resuming training without authorisation. City officials criticized the move. 

A deadly pandemic? The rule of law? It seems to mean little to Brazil’s biggest club, who, on Wednesday, restarted training, led by Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus, at their training complex the Ninho de Urubu, defying health measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus which has ravaged Brazil amidst president Jair Bolsonaro’s erratic policies. For the first time, Brazil registered more than a 1,000 fatalities in a single day this week. Only the United States and Russia have more confirmed COVID-19 cases than South America’s largest country.

“Flamengo were informed that non-essential activities suspended remain until 25 May,” said Rio’s health secretary in a statement. The statement also said that the club could evaluate and test players for the coronavirus but that training was not permitted.

But those restrictions were ignored by Flamengo. On Monday, the club recalled their players after a two-month shutdown of the domestic game because of the coronavirus. The players, staff members and families were monitored and submitted to tests.

The next day, club president Rodolfo Landim lobbied Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, together with historic rival Vasco da Gama, at a lunch in the capital for an early restart of the game behind closed doors and the possibility of training in Brasilia.

Previously, Rio’s football federation authorised the restart of practice, but that decision was instantly overruled by local government. The Mane Garrincha stadium, the national stadium in the capital and a white elephant from the 2014 World Cup, has stepped in to offer its services. Flamengo and Vasco Da Gama are both considering airlifting their teams and families to Brasilia.

But Flamengo’s unauthorised training sessions have sparked a backlash. “The clubs have to be big on and off the field,” said Botafogo director Carlos Montenegro. “This is an attitude of a tiny team. People will come to training and could leave contaminated. It could be an act of homicide forcing the situation in this way. Who will be held responsible if an athlete or a club employee transmits the virus to a family member or someone at home? The position of Botafogo is that we are not going to play.”

In local newspaper O Globo, columnist Carlos Mansur wrote that both Flamengo and Vasco da Gama held “negationist views of the pandemic”.

Recently, Flamengo’s massage specialist Jorgino passed away after contracting the coronavirus. He had been at Flamengo since 1980 and was a member of Brazil’s World Cup-winning backroom staff in 2002. But in an official statement Flamengo highlighted that their players welcomed a return to training. The club wrote that “the players and staff members involved in the daily life at the Ninho do Urubu say that they feel safe and able to resume training due to the safety and prevention protocol adopted by Flamengo’s medical department.”

On Thursday, Brazil reported  a record 1,188 coronavirus fatalities. The country has 310,087 confirmed cases and 20,047 deaths, according to the latest data of Johns Hopkins University.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1632510895labto1632510895ofdlr1632510895owedi1632510895sni@o1632510895fni1632510895