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BRAZIL’S right-wing President, Jair Bolsonaro, wants to see football competitions start back up again soon despite the country's high number of coronavirus cases, arguing on Thursday that players are less likely to die from Covid-19 because of their physical fitness.
Bolsonaro is one of the few world leaders still downplaying the serious risks brought by the pandemic, which he has likened to “a little flu."
Most football tournaments in Brazil were suspended on March 15. The Brazilian championship was scheduled to begin in May, but that looks unlikely as the country has become Latin America’s coronavirus epicentre with more than 5,900 deaths.
Doctors say the peak of the pandemic is expected to hit within two weeks.
“There are a lot of people in soccer that are favourable to a return because unemployment is knocking on clubs' doors too,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with Radio Guaiba.
“Footballers, if infected with the virus, have a small chance of dying. That's because of their physical state, because they are athletes."
Brazil's president said his new health minister would issue a suggestion that games return without any fans in the stadiums, but he acknowledged many players might be reluctant.
“The decision to restart soccer is not mine, but we can help,” Bolsonaro said, adding that he had spoken with Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi about the issue and was told that players were still worried about the virus.
Neighbouring Argentina has already cancelled the rest of the 2019-20 season because of the pandemic. France also decided to end the season, declaring Paris Saint-Germain league champions on Thursday.
Brazil's football confederation said in a statement on Tuesday that competitions should return “whenever it is possible, with safety and health-care assurances for all those involved.”
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