The president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been pushing for a restart despite coronavirus having not yet peaked in the country and he angered many when he said “footballers have a small chance of dying of the virus”. On Monday a group of 16 first-division players, including Felipe Melo of Palmeiras, released a video saying players’ health must come first. On Tuesday, Internacional became the first top club to resume training at its facilities but a restart of the league would appear to be at least a month away.
Premier League clubs will hold another video conference call on Monday to discuss how to proceed. The league, unlike many others, has discussed playing at neutral venues but three clubs – West Ham, Aston Villa and Brighton – have openly voiced concern. On Monday clubs will discuss a detailed timeframe of how a full return to training could work and they hope to vote it through on Friday. The season will start in mid-June at the earliest.
The Bundesliga will be the first major league to restart with games scheduled for 16 May. The top two divisions hope to finish before the end of June to avoid problems with expiring contracts. The relaunch of the competition has not been without hiccups, though, as the Hertha Berlin forward Salomon Kalou filmed himself shaking hands with teammates and the German Football League announced 10 positive coronavirus tests from the initial 1,724 of players and staff.
The 20 Serie A clubs recently voted to try to complete the season but on Friday Sampdoria said four players had tested positive for coronavirus, one for a second time. Fiorentina said three players and three staff had tested positive and Torino revealed one player had Covid-19. On Thursday the government said it was still examining medical guidelines of the football federation, which are seen as the stumbling block. Teams have been allowed to start practising this week, with players training individually and adhering to physical-distancing protocols. Full team practices are due to begin on 18 May but only if the medical protocol is approved, and mid-June seems the earliest date Serie A will resume.
Top-flight clubs returned to training this week, with the aim to get league games started by the end of the month or possibly in the first week of June. Porto said this week the players had undergone medical tests and were divided into three groups for practice to conform with physical-distancing guidelines. The Benfica coach, Bruno Lage, said: “We will try to find the best solutions and the best way of staying connected, even when we are a distance apart.” Portugal has been spared the huge death tolls in neighbouring Spain and some other western European countries.
One of the worst-hit countries in the world, Spain has started to ease lockdown rules recently and La Liga teams returned to training this week. Training grounds were prepared, disinfected and inspected and players had Covid-19 antibody tests before returning. Players will work alone to begin with, then in groups of six and finally in groups of 14. The league hopes to be back in mid June. “The return of football is a sign that society is progressing to a new normality,” said the president of the league, Javier Tebas.
All 26 clubs in Major League Soccer had played two of their scheduled 34 matches when the league suspended league play and issued a full team training moratorium on 12 March. Matches are suspended until at least 8 June, although four teams – including David Beckham’s Inter Miami – were permitted by the league to return to voluntary training this week and more are due to join them.