Virus-stricken Belenenses planning to sue league official
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — The president of a club enduring a COVID-19 outbreak is planning to sue the Portuguese league official who said his team wanted to play last weekend despite having only nine players.
Belenenses kicked off on Saturday and trailed Benfica 7-0 by halftime. The match was abandoned early in the second half after Belenenses went down to six players.
Health authorities later determined that 13 cases of the new omicron variant were detected within club members, and on Tuesday a health worker who had contact with the club members also was found to be infected with the same strain. Nearly 30 other workers who came into close contact with the positive case were tested and all results returned negative.
Benfica released a statement on Monday lamenting “one of the saddest episodes in the history of Portuguese soccer.”
Belenenses president Rui Pedro Soares said he will take legal action because the report prepared by the league official inaccurately said the club was OK with playing the match despite the situation. The club also presented a formal complaint about the report with the Portuguese soccer federation.
“What is written there is false,” Soares told CMTV in an interview late Monday. “I said it was shameful and I was outraged for having to play. I said that in the presence of the police, firefighters and referees. We will see in the courts what really happened.”
Soares said initially that the club would be playing if enough players were considered to be available. The club never formally requested the game to be postponed, but Soares said the request was not made because that responsibility belonged to the league and health authorities.
“We were not in condition to play,” he said. “It’s not up to Belenenses to request for the game to be postponed.”
The team risked losing points if it did not show up to the game without authorization from league officials.
Benfica also said it had to play, and that it was not actively involved in the decision to postpone it or not. Its players were tested on Monday and all the results came back negative.
The Portuguese federation on Tuesday opened disciplinary proceedings against Belenenses for not being able to finish the match with enough players.
The league said it was not to blame and that it followed the COVID-19 protocols, though it questioned why health officials failed to consider all Belenenses players to be at a high risk of contagion considering the possible presence of omicron.
The league said it was investigating what happened and called for an “urgent” meeting with health authorities to discuss possible changes in the COVID-19 protocols for matches.
Belenenses on Monday asked the league for a rematch, saying that by its interpretation of the rules the result shouldn’t count because the game wasn’t fully completed. The club also was considering asking for the postponement of its match at Vizela on Monday.
Belenenses is second to last in the 18-team standings, inside the relegation zone.
Benfica, which plays against rival Sporting Lisbon on Friday, is in third place, one point off the lead.
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