Rio’s on-off Carioca returns with plan to admit fans from July 10

June 29 – Football with fans in the stadia will be played in Rio de Janeiro from July 10, at one-third capacity, following a decree from local authorities. On Sunday, the Carioca championship resumed again after the mayor had suspended the tournament. 

On August 1, stadiums can host supporters up to two-thirds capacity before all restrictions will be lifted on August 16 for the Maracana, Nilton Santos stadium and Sao Januário to stage matches.

At first, social distancing rules will apply inside the stadiums, with fans restricted to buying tickets online only. Brazil has a tradition of last-minute ticket sales at the gate.

On June 18, South America’s largest country became the first on the continent to resume play when Flamengo defeated Bangu at the Maracana, but that early return to action was overshadowed by controversy as two coronavirus patients died on the same day of the match in the field hospital adjacent to the stadium. Flamengo’s insistence to play incensed Rio rivals Botafogo and Fluminense, who both argued it was too soon for a restart.

On Sunday, both clubs took the field but under protest after Rio mayor Marcelo Crivella had first postponed the competition again after Flamengo’s drive for a restart before town hall green-lighted play again.

But controversy has never been far away. Experienced Botafogo coach Paulo Autuori had planned to resign to not have to participate in his club’s match against Cabofriense on Sunday before being talked around. Fluminense moved their match away from the Maracana because they didn’t want to play at the stadium out of respect for the families of the victims.

The municipal decree will also make Brazil the first South American country to play with fans. Paraguay’s domestic league is due to kick off on July 17, but, like the rest of the continent, they plan to play behind closed doors for the foreseeable future.

In South America, Brazil has been hardest hit by the coronavirus. The country has the second-highest number of infections and deaths from the virus worldwide with more than 1.2 million infections and 55,000 fatalities respectively. It remains unclear if the virus has peaked yet in Brazil.

But the hastened return of the Carioca championship is seen as an attempt to kickstart the national championship, which traditionally kicks off at the start of May.

The Brazilian FA (CBF) has planned an August start date for the Serie A, but with the health crisis differing from state to state in Brazil the logistics may yet prove problematic.

From its headquarters in Ascuncion, the South American governing body CONMEBOL will be a close observer, because Brazil provides seven of the 32 clubs that participate in its flagship club competition, the Copa Libertadores, the continent’s equivalent to the Champions League.

The competition’s final is due to take place in Rio de Janeiro in November, but for now the Copa Libertadores can’t resume without a return of Brazilian football and presumably a major improvement from Brazilian authorities in controlling the virus for any international club matches to go ahead.  CONMEBOL’s official position is that the competition can only return once all 10 nations of the continent have lifted restrictions on international travel.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1596530020labto1596530020ofdlr1596530020owedi1596530020sni@o1596530020fni1596530020