March 15, 2020 / 3:46 PM / 24 days ago

Brazilian team wear masks in protest at having to play

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (Reuters) - Players from Brazilian club Gremio took to the field wearing masks on Sunday in protest at having to play a soccer match as fears over coronavirus grow in the South American nation.

The players, led by manager Renato Portaluppi, walked out of the tunnel to play Sao Luiz and lined up before the game wearing white masks over their faces.

“This protest by the players to take the field wearing masks makes implicit our support for the championship to be halted,” Paulo Luz, Gremio’s director of football, said in quotes reported by Brazilian website UOL. “Life must take precedence.”

No spectators were allowed into the Gremio arena for the Gaucho state championship match.

The protest comes as players and clubs across South America are starting to complain at decisions by footballing authorities to order games to be played, but behind closed doors.

Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus appealed for football to be halted, saying players needed to be protected because “they are not super human”.

In Argentina, River Plate refused to play their Superliga cup tie against Atletico Tucuman on Saturday. The Buenos Aires club closed their stadium, leaving match officials and an advance team from Atletico outside the ground.

Reporting by Andrew Downie, editing by Ed Osmond

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