Brazil's Fluminense win right not to play next to COVID-19 hospital

AFP
The Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro during a game between Flamengo and Bangu on June 18, 2020 (AFP Photo/MAURO PIMENTEL)
The Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro during a game between Flamengo and Bangu on June 18, 2020 (AFP Photo/MAURO PIMENTEL)

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - One of Brazil's top football clubs, Fluminense, won its battle Friday not to play matches at a stadium also serving as a coronavirus hospital, which it argued was disrespectful to victims and their families.

Struggling to avoid the collapse of the health system as the pandemic surges in Brazil, authorities have set up a field hospital in the parking lot at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana stadium.

Paradoxically, the venue also began hosting matches again last week, after a three-month coronavirus hiatus on all professional football across South America.

Fluminense's president, Mario Bittencourt, argued that was a mistake.

"I don't think matches should be scheduled in the Maracana, next to a field hospital. It's disrespectful," he said.

The Rio de Janeiro Football Federation ultimately relented, allowing Fluminense to play its state tournament match against Volta Redonda on Sunday in Nilton Santos Olympic stadium instead.

But while Fluminense may have won that battle, it lost its war to avoid returning to play altogether.

Along with fellow Rio club Botafogo, the team has fought Mayor Marcelo Crivella's decision to authorize closed-door football matches, arguing it is putting lives at risk given that infections are still not under control in Brazil.

The clubs initially won a reprieve, but a court ruled this week they must resume play this weekend. They had sought to return in July at the earliest.

Brazil has the second-highest number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus worldwide, after the United States: more than 1.2 million and 55,000, respectively.

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