The whole country is wondering after the mock match that took place on Saturday, on behalf of the 12th day of the Portuguese championship.
Extraordinary meeting of the Professional League, criticism from the leaders of the big clubs: the day after the Belenenses-Benfica match abandoned when the small Lisbon club, ravaged by the Covid-19, could only field nine players, before being reduced at… six, Portugal and the sporting authorities want to understand how this meeting could be maintained.
“Shame», Headlines the sports daily A Bola on Sunday, estimating that the public attended «a game that should never have happened“, while Record, the other major sports daily, proclaims that football “has hit rock bottom“. The Jogo newspaper, for its part, describes this match as “prank call“:”A shameful spectacle in the Jamor stadium that wrote one of the darkest pages in the history of Portuguese football“, Underlines the sports newspaper. It is the daily Jornal de Noticias which best sums up this meeting with an implacable formula: “Eleven against nine and in the end it’s football that loses“.
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Counting for the 12th day of the Portuguese Championship, the match between the leader Benfica and Belenenses, 16th, was to be a formality for the “Eagles” with 37 national titles. In fact, Benfica were leading 7-0 when the game was interrupted early in the second half, but Belenenses could not compete.
The modest team from the Belem district of Lisbon found itself in an ubiquitous situation: it was deprived of fourteen players due to Covid-19, as well as its coach and several members of its technical staff. To challenge one of the giants of Portuguese football, Belenenses started several young players from its reserve team and had to reposition a 20-year-old goalkeeper as an improvised striker.
After the break, the match descended into absurdity and ridicule: trailing 7-0, only seven Belenenses players had the courage to return to the pitch. After the injury, suspicious, of one of them, the referee had to whistle the early end of the match in accordance with the regulations of the championship when a team is reduced to six players.
After the match, the president of Belenenses Rui Pedro Soares assured that he had asked the Portuguese League to obtain the postponement of the meeting: “we were told that with eight players“The match could be maintained, under penalty of sanctions for the team, he explained at a press conference.
A League official quoted in the local media explained that he had telephone contact with the president of Belenenses, but he specified that he had not received “formal requestto postpone this meeting, so La Liga was unable to analyze the situation. The decision to maintain the meeting with so many players unavailable was unanimously criticized by the big clubs.
Sporting Portugal, for its part, considered that this episode was detrimental to “the credibility of the championship“Portuguese who”will struggle to be taken seriously“, while the communication director of FC Porto regretted that Portugal returns an image “from third world countries“.
Extraordinary meeting this Monday
La Liga, which called an extraordinary meeting for Monday, seized the Disciplinary Board of the Portuguese Football Federation and also requested a “urgent meeting” with the Secretary of State for Health and the health authorities in order to obtain information “clear on the emergency protocol» in force in the competitions.
It remains to be seen how, when Portugal, one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, announced several measures last week to curb the resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic, such a hotbed of contamination could develop. within Belenenses. The Portuguese media recalled that the South African international defender Thibang Phete had traveled for matches with his selection in South Africa, the country where the new Omicron variant was identified.