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Rio clears clubs to resume training, eyes mid-June restart

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-05-25 11:31
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RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state championship is set to return from its coronavirus shutdown in mid-June despite opposition from two of its biggest clubs.

The Rio de Janeiro Football Federation (FERJ) said Sunday that clubs would be free to begin training on Tuesday (May 26) under strict protocols, with the matches slated to resume on June 14.

A roadmap for football's return in Rio was announced following a meeting between club presidents, federation officials and Rio mayor Marcelo Crivella earlier in the day.

"I am very satisfied with our dialogue and I will submit all issues addressed to our scientific committee, always thinking first of all about saving lives," Crivella said in a statement.

In a separate press release, FERJ said clubs would be tasked with undertaking strict testing of players, coaches and staff over the next three weeks.

"With football expected to return in mid-June, but without fans, the clubs must carry out the clinical evaluation phase, physical tests and activities to recover [fitness levels] ... on a step-by-step basis," the entity said.

However, Botafogo and Fluminense were absent from Sunday's talks and have opposed football's restart amid the pandemic.

Botafogo president Nelson Mufarrej described the decision - which has been spearheaded by Flamengo and Vasco da Gama - as "disconnected from reality", as Brazil's daily rate of COVID-19 deaths continues to rise.

"We reaffirm that this is not the time to return to face-to-face training," Mufarrej said. "Football needs to set an example because of its high social repercussions."

Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus infections worldwide behind the United States with more than 363,000 confirmed cases and almost 23,000 deaths.

Football has been suspended in the South American country since mid-March and, until Sunday, no date had been set for its return.

Flamengo, the reigning Brazilian and Copa Libertadores champions, resumed training last week, defying a local government ban on all sports.

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