MADRID (Reuters) - The return of Brazilian football after a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic is happening too soon, former World Cup winner Ronaldo said on Thursday.
The local league in Rio de Janeiro state, known as the Carioca championship, becomes the first state league in Brazil to restart on Thursday when reigning champions Flamengo take on Bangu at the Maracana stadium.
Top clubs Fluminense and Botafogo have attacked the decision to return as premature and Ronaldo, who is from Rio, agreed.
“I am against the return of Carioca football and Brazilian football given the situation the country is in right now,” he said at a corporate event in Madrid. “Brazil is following the examples of other countries in Europe but it isn’t taking the pandemic into consideration.”
Brazil has seen more deaths from COVID-19 than any other nation except the United States and reported 1,269 dead on Wednesday, taking the overall death toll to 46,510.
Spain, where Ronaldo owns Real Valladolid, restarted the national championship last week, but the former Barcelona and Real Madrid striker pointed out it did so only after flattening the curve.
“The championship only restarted here when we had total security in cities and communities when the number of those having the virus had come right down,” he said.
“So I think Brazil is still at a peak and thinking about having football back is an error.”
Reporting by Silvio Castellanos in Madrid; writing by Andrew Downie in London; Editing by Christian Radnedge