Rio mayor suspends games to give teams more time to prepare

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The resumption of Brazilian football was dealt a setback on Saturday when the city’s mayor suspended matches involving Botafogo and Fluminense in order to give the clubs more time to prepare for action.

The Rio de Janeiro state championship became the first of Brazil’s soccer tournaments to restart after a three-month hiatus on Thursday when reigning champions Flamengo beat Bangu 3-0.

However, Fluminense and Botafogo threatened not to play games scheduled for June 22, with Fluminense players saying they needed more time to train, and Botafogo declaring they would only be ready to play in July.

With courts refusing their appeal to postpone the games and the two clubs worried they would lose points by a WO, Mayor Marcelo Crivella took action.

His initial decree suspended all games in the Rio state championship until June 25 but he reversed that position hours later to halt only Botafogo’s match against Cabofriense and Fluminense’s encounter with Volta Redonda.

Brazil’s other state championships, the regional tournaments that take place before the national league gets under way in the second half of the year, have not set dates for a restart.

Corinthians, who play in the Sao Paulo state championship, Brazil's biggest, said on Saturday that eight players and five other members of staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

The Sao Paulo club expects to begin training again next week.

Brazil has not come close to flattening its coronavirus curve, with another 1,022 people reported dead on Saturday.

The overall death toll in South America’s biggest nation is now 49,976, higher than any country except the United States.



(Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Andrew Downie in London; Editing by Daniel Wallis)