SAO PAULO: A Brazilian judge has called off Sunday’s scheduled league match between Palmeiras and Flamengo after at least 16 players from the Rio club tested positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) and their rivals responded by calling for the entire league program to be halted.

Flamengo said it only had nine outfield players and three goalkeepers available for the match, which will pit the reigning champions against home club Palmeiras, the only team in the Serie A to remain unbeaten after 10 games.

The decision, taken by a Rio de Janeiro labor court, followed an appeal by the union of football club employees, who said they and their families would be at risk if the game went ahead.

Both the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and the country’s sports tribunal had rejected Flamengo’s request to halt the game.

The CBF said clubs had the right to register 40 players and so Flamengo should have enough players available. It has not yet responded to the court decision.

Palmeiras said they expected the agreed protocols to be followed and were preparing for Sunday’s game to be played.

“If the league’s [protocols] are not complied with then we need to halt the competition,” club president Mauricio Galiotte said on Twitter.

Brazil has recorded the second-highest number of coronavirus deaths after the United States. More than 140,000 Brazilians have died from the virus.

Football restarted in the country in June with Flamengo kicking off the Rio de Janeiro state championship.

Published in Dawn, September 28th, 2020