Rio for football with fans despite COVID rise

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Maracanã Stadium back with fans Image: MJR Group Ltd./Coliseum

Despite a rise in the seven-day rolling average of new daily deaths in Brazil due to the deadly COVID-19 which continues to batter the world, the City Council of the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro is keen on allowing football spectators back into the famous Maracanã Stadium – which sits in Rio de Janeiro and is the largest stadium in Brazil.

“On October 4th, we will have the first game of the Brazilian Championship (Brazilian professional league for men’s football clubs) in the presence of fans since the pandemic broke,” Rio de Janeiro Mayor Marcelo Crivella said at a press conference on September 18th.

The Série A game will take place between reigning Brazilian champions and Copa Libertadores winner Flamengo Rio de Janeiro and Athletico Paranaense on October 4th. Mayor Crivella informed that 20,000 spectators, one-third of the full capacity of the Maracanã, will be admitted pending a nod from the Brazilian Football Association (CBF). If the match goes ahead, it will be Brazil’s first game with fans in six-plus months. If results are encouraging, other stadia in Rio will be allowed to reopen.

Justifying the need to hold the match with fans in attendance amid the pandemic, Crivella stated, “We are going to appeal to the CBF. Perhaps the biggest problem in Rio de Janeiro is the large number of people without masks on the beach. Twenty thousand people in Maracanã are 20,000 fewer people on the beach. Especially during weekends, it is difficult to keep City dwellers at home. Then beaches and bars fill up.”

Brazil, along with US and India, has been worst affected due to the fatal respiratory disease. The country now has 4.5 million infected and more than 135,000 dead so far. As per data supplied by the Government of the State of Rio de Janeiro, on September 18th, the City of Rio has 97,612 infected people and 10,449 patients have died.

It is a different matter that Rio has already allowed playing in the regional championship sparking protests and postponements. The association football team based in the City of São Paulo, SC Corinthians, threatened not to play in the Championship if spectators were only allowed in Rio.

Football was one of the first activities to be return from coronavirus-imposed quarantines in Brazil, and the management of the epidemic among players and staff has been reportedly much unplanned. A case in point is Flamengo recorded six cases of COVID-19 among their playing squad on Sunday evening and yet they will go ahead with the October 4th match if the permission is finally granted.

Tickets sales will be an exclusively online affair to avoid crowd congregating at the ticket offices. Certain rules will have to be followed such as the mandatory use of face masks, social distancing of at least 1.5 meters between people in the stands, and temperature check at the entrance gates.

The Maracanã Stadium, which opened in 1950 boasts 78,838 seats, which means that if 20,000 spectators are allowed, more than a quarter of the stadium’s capacity would be used.

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