Carioca Championship – Botafogo v Bangu
Carioca Championship match in Rio de Janeiro played without an audience to prevent coronavirus
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MARCH 15: Keisuke Honda of Botafogo celebrates scoring the opening goal with Rafael Navarro during the Campeonato Carioca match between Botafogo and Bangu at Estadio Olímpico Nilton Santos on March 15, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MARCH 15: Keisuke Honda of Botafogo in action during the Campeonato Carioca match between Botafogo and Bangu at Estadio Olímpico Nilton Santos on March 15, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
Brazil’s Fluminense player Henrique Pacheco de Lima eyes the ball during the Copa Sudamericana football match against Chile’s Union La Calera at the Nicolas Chahuan Nazar stadium in La Calera, Chile, on February 18, 2020. (Photo by JAVIER TORRES / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MARCH 15: Botafogo players line up for the team photos prior to the Campeonato Carioca match between Botafogo and Bangu at Estadio Olímpico Nilton Santos on March 15, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 20: Payers of Fluminense gather before a match between Flamengo and Fluminense as part of Brasileirao Series A 2019 at Maracana Stadium on October 20, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Brazil’s Fluminense players pose before a Copa Sudamericana football match against Chile’s Union La Calera at the Nicolas Chahuan Nazar stadium in La Calera, Chile, on February 18, 2020. (Photo by JAVIER TORRES / AFP) (Photo by JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – MARCH 15: Keisuke Honda of Botafogo wearing a mask walks into the pitch prior to the Campeonato Carioca match between Botafogo and Bangu at Estadio Olímpico Nilton Santos on March 15, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images)
Chile’s Union La Calera playes pose for pictures before their Copa Sudamericana football match against Brazil’s Fluminense at Maracana stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on February 4, 2020. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP) (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP via Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – FEBRUARY 08: Fans of Botafogo wave flags as they attend the presentation of Japanese player Keisuke Honda at Engenhao Stadium on February 8, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Wagner Meier/Getty Images)
(Reuters) – Two of Brazil’s top soccer clubs, Botafogo and Fluminense, said on Tuesday they would defy an order from their federation to resume playing competitively this week, as the country’s daily coronavirus death toll hovers around 1,000.
The Rio de Janeiro state football federation proposed that the state championship, one of several state-wide tournaments that take place in Brazil before the national leagues begin in the second half of the year, restart on June 18, pending state government approval.
Botafogo president Nelson Mufarrej called the ruling “disconnected from reality”, and both clubs said they planned legal action on health and safety grounds to avoid having to resume playing so soon.
“Unfortunately, the majority of clubs understand that this is the time to play games again, in spite of the chaotic scenes we’re living through right now,” Mufarrej said in a statement. “We’re against it.”
Brazil’s documented deaths from the pandemic stand at just below 44,000, more than any country in the world except the United States, and that toll been rising by around 1,000 per day for the past week.
City rival Fluminense’s chairman Mario Bittencourt said his players, inactive since action was halted in mid-March, were also not ready to play competitively again.
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“The pandemic persists,” Bittencourt said. “The dates set for our games (22nd and 24th) are unacceptable from the point of view of the health of our players and we won’t be taking the field, and we will look to take action in the sporting court to do what is right.”
Botafogo and Fluminense have been asked to play in the first round of rescheduled games. All four of the state’s top teams, which also include Flamengo and Vasco da Gama, are down to play a game between June 18 and 22.
(Writing by Andrew Downie; editing by John Stonestreet)