The football community was in uproar after a Covid-19 outbreak created farcical scenes in a Primeira Liga game this weekend.
A Primeira Liga game between Belenenses and Benfica was called off in the second half on Saturday after Belenenses started with only nine players, including two goalkeepers, after being decimated by an outbreak of Covid-19.
Belenenses played one of their goalkeepers, Joao Monteiro, outfield and had no substitutes at the Estadio Nacional where Benfica strolled into a 7-0 lead before halftime.
The game was called off by the referee Manuel Mota three minutes into the second half, after three injuries meant Belenenses were reduced to six players.
“The league is a disgrace,” chanted supporters in the stadium.
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Reports in Portugal claimed Belenenses were without 14 players due to Covid, as well as several members of staff.
Belenenses coach Filipe Candido had indicated on Saturday that he would have to promote some under-23 players due to injuries and suspensions.
Sports broadcaster Daniel Garb tweeted: “What a disgrace this is.”
CBS’s Ben Jacobs posted: “Insanity that this match kicked off in the first place. Why was there no Primeira Liga protocol stopping a 9 vs. 11 game, including a GK outfield? Madness. Belenenses chairman in tears at HT and thankfully the officials saw sense when an early second-half ‘injury’ happened.”
The Belenenses players released a joint statement which read: “Football only has heart if it is competitive. Football only has heart if it is really sporting. Football only has heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football lost its heart.”
Manchester City’s Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva wrote: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”
Belenenses sat 16th in the Primeira Liga at the start of the game while Benfica were third.
Europe is on alert over the new mutant strain – and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new crackdown measures on Saturday.
Mask-wearing will again be compulsory in shops and buses, trains and taxis in England.
Overseas travel and self-isolation rules have been tightened after the first two cases of the super-strain were detected in Britain.
Johnson also urged people to get booster jabs, saying: “It’s more vital than ever.”
Omicron — discovered only days ago in southern Africa — has been declared the worst variant yet by one expert, while there are fears it might reduce vaccine protection over time.
The first reported cases in Europe of the new variant were found in Belgium earlier this week.
– with AFP and The Sun