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Brasileirão 2020: the season in jeopardy?

COVID-19 is spreading around the Brazilian soccer league, and authorities don’t seem to be paying attention to what the consequences can be.

The 2020 season in the Brazilian soccer league started with a lot of doubts and protocol errors. The Brazilian Soccer Confederation (CBF) decided about a month ago that games would begin on August 8th and end just next year, in February. This decision by itself is very controversial since in Brazil regional championships cover the first 3 months of the year. But, apparently, clubs agree with the idea (probably because of the TV share that gives them a lot of money).

So, the season schedule was settled. What about COVID-19 protocols? Because if anyone forgot, we are in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 700,000 people in the world and infected over 20 million. At first, it appeared CBF was in control of the situation. The protocol was created, and all 20 clubs of the Brazilian Serie A had to test players before every match, with a trusted laboratory doing the tests. It couldn’t go wrong, right? Yeah, it didn’t go that way.

Let’s remind that CBF is responsible for all four divisions in the country. Therefore, if you want to avoid the virus from spreading, you need to alert those involved in the protocol, and they must follow the rules to keep everything fine. Unfortunately, in three of the four divisions, we had already a lot of COVID cases reported, which affected the realization of games. 

First, in Serie C, Imperatriz and Treze had their meeting canceled because the away team discovered 12 positive cases in the roster. Then, in Alagoas, in the northeast of Brazil, a Serie B team named CSA (Centro Sportivo Alagoano) went to the first league game against Guarani without 9 players, all infected by the virus. A few days later, they confirmed that 80% of the roster was with the “Rona”, causing the postponement of their next contest. In Serie A, the situation achieved to be worse.

Two clubs in the state of Goiás, located near the capital, Brasília, have found they got players who tested positive. The first one, Goiás FC, learned on the same day of the match against São Paulo that 9 players were infected. This happened because of a problem in an earlier test made three days before Sunday’s game. One week before, 10 more athletes already had contracted the virus. The game was obviously called off, and São Paulo returned home. 

Atlético Goianiense, city rivals of Goiás FC, was the other team that confirmed four positive tests not long before the match against Flamengo. The normal procedure would be to put these players in quarantine, but the club says they only got fragments of dead virus in their bodies, which would prevent other people from getting infected. As this argument isn’t much reliable, CBF prohibited the players from playing, but Atlético Goianiense got in court to be allowed to use them. And they actually won the appeal. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

At least 151 players were infected by the virus at some point. With so many cases being confirmed in Brazilian soccer, my question is: what’s the point of having a protocol if clubs won’t follow it and even the league organizer doesn’t seem interested in doing so? Both clubs and confederation need to be more responsible and understand this pandemic should be taken very seriously. Real lives are being put at risk and for what? To continue playing soccer? This can’t be right. The number one priority should be ensuring a safe and healthy environment for players to do their work. This isn’t the case right now.

The Brazilian League continues, as it’s getting more clear each day the number of cases won’t stop to grow. If those involved don’t change their attitude soon, who knows what can happen. Maybe this season won’t even get to the end.

UPDATE: There was some changes in the protocol recently announced by CBF: now, all players must take a COVID test 72 hours before every game (even those who wasn’t called for the match). The home team must send the results 24 hours before the game, and the away team 12 hours before their trip. The confederation also announced clubs are free to choose where to do the tests, since there was a problem with Goiás FC, mentioned in this article. CBF will be responsible for the costs.


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