Benfica president describes Belenenses COVID crisis as ‘dark day for Portuguese football’

Benfica president Rui Costa has expressed his disappointment towards the Portuguese FA for allowing Saturday’s meeting with Belenenses to go ahead while the home side were in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Belenenses had just nine players available for the game, including a reserve goalkeeper playing outfield, and were not able to have the match suspended as league rules state teams must play if they have at least seven players, one of whom must be a goalkeeper.

The match went as you’d expect in the first half. Belenenses went behind after 30 seconds and were 7-0 down at half time, after which just seven players emerged for the second half.

Backup goalkeeper Joao Monteiro went down with an injury just seconds after the restart, leaving the referee with no other choice but to suspend the game.

“We did not like to enter the pitch under these conditions,” said Costa (via ESPN). “Benfica was forced to do it like Belenenses. I regret what happened today, a dark chapter for Portuguese football and for the country itself.”

Belenenses president Rui Pedro Soares, who was seen crying on the pitch at half time, insisted he had unsuccessfully tried to get the game postponed earlier in the day.

“In the middle of the afternoon we communicated to the League that we didn’t want to play the game,” he said. “We had eight players who could attend the game and as such they told us that if we didn’t attend the game it would be unjustified absence. Playing here today was a shame for all of us.”

It’s a bit of a weird statement from Soares, who earlier in the day stressed that he had not asked for the game to be postponed and Belenenses would never look for excuses.

“We don’t ask anyone to postpone the game,” Soares said (via Mais Futbol) earlier in the day. “Not Benfica nor the League, nor the health authorities. So far this has not happened and will not happen. Belenenses will not ask for the game to be postponed.”

Speaking of hypocrisy, Sporting CP chose to chime in with their own statement.

“What made this situation possible must deserve a deep reflection by all those who defend the sporting truth and must deserve national attention at the highest level,” the club said.

“It is already receiving international attention and marking yet another dark episode in Portuguese football.”

This is the same Sporting that refused to postpone a game back in January 2020 when Vitoria de Setubal’s squad was ravaged by a viral outbreak, but hey, Belenenses will be delighted to have their support.