Anyone who is a football fan must have a different turn of the year. With games between Christmas and New Year and also in early January, the Brazilian Championship will have a modified calendar because of the long stoppage due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus. Who revealed these plans was the secretary general of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Walter Feldman, in an exclusive interview with Estadão.
The organization still does not know when it will be able to resume competitions, but it is clear that it will only resume the calendar after receiving authorization from the Ministry of Health. According to Feldman, for the time being the job is to update a medical care protocol, talk to clubs and federations and ensuring that no political pressure will hasten the return to Brazilian football activities.
Some teams have already returned to training. Can’t this represent a competitive advantage up front?
The round of competitions has to be based primarily on health conditions, with controlled curves and with the protocols practiced. We did something very sensible in early May, by allowing each federation and club to assess what was possible in reality. According to our forecast, our calendar should be resumed on top of state competitions, so that when national tournaments begin, clubs already have the appropriate preparation and conditioning.
And how does Conmebol (South American Football Confederation) follow the process in Brazil?
Last week we had a video conference with Conmebol. We had a long debate about that. We made it clear that we are going to work at this moment with preference for the competitions in the Brazilian calendar, hoping that Conmebol would make some definition that was later than our decisions. Our sequence is: state competitions and then national ones. So far it is fully possible to comply with the Brazilian calendar. We can take advantage of unused dates and, if necessary, some dates from the beginning of 2021.
So is it possible for the Brazilian to finish only in January?
Yes. I would say that when we started the parade, we started to think about the flexing mechanisms that would have to be added to the calendar in order to be able to finish the competitions. That’s why we work with the extension of the athletes’ vacations to have the release of the period between Christmas and New Year. It would be possible to make a timetable until 2021 and we also started something that has been maintained, a dialogue with the Federation of Athletes in order to reduce the time between matches.
What would the player contracts look like? Many of the athletes have ties until December 31.
It is a problem that has been considered in terms of legislation. There is a bill to resolve some issues and one of them is this, the possibility of signing a contract for only 30 days (note of writing: the minimum contract currently allowed is 90 days in duration). Perhaps a solution would be in an emergency situation, as it has shorter contracts. We know how difficult it is for clubs to maintain salaries. This is still being addressed. There are several questions in progress, still unanswered.
How has CBF’s medical protocol been made for teams to return to training?
We make updates almost daily, because the changes about the pandemic are constant, with the knowledge of new tests. We have conducted this work together with the Ministry of Health without any pressure or harassment. We are following the evolution of the epidemic. The protocol is very well elaborated, more than 150 soccer doctors participated, has six opinions from infectologists and epidemiologists. We seek as much technical construction as possible from the perspective of return.
How has the participation of infectologists been, who are the great experts on the subject?
Our biggest reference is infectious disease Sérgio Wey, who was even my college colleague. He gave an opinion in which he reports on how he followed this work. We also send it to the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI) and we have an opinion from the technical director of SBI, who makes all the considerations. We just haven’t released it yet because as it is in the Ministry of Health’s plan. The participation of infectologists and epidemiologists has been fundamental. They give the complementary characteristic to the experience accumulated by football doctors. It was a perfect match.
Who will give the final approval to release football?
From the beginning, we said that we would not take a step without the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, given that CBF is a national institution. But the evaluation of municipal and state health departments is still essential.
Do exchanges at the Ministry of Health interfere?
No. At no time did we give the event a political dimension. We always talked in the technical area. It is essential that our decision is scientific. There is no political component.
When we get back, will we only have games with closed gates?
I wouldn’t say that we have that clear. But under no circumstances are we thinking of resuming with the gates open. Of course, it will always be on the horizon to think about games with support, distance and care, but I would say that now it is a question far from being addressed. We are now thinking about the return of training, preserved social distance, daily monitoring.
Does CBF intend to fund the tests of some teams?
In the first conversations we had with the Ministry of Health, as football became an important example to make people distracted, the possibility was even raised for the Ministry to provide tests. But this was neither possible nor appropriate. We are now evaluating prices, origin of tests and quality. A new test appears every time. Since Serie A and Serie B have several clubs coming back, they are doing so on their own initiative. We are in a moment of evaluation, cost, market, to evaluate this. At this moment, there is no sign of discussing values. Prices are high and the quantity is large.
Flamengo and Vasco even met with President Jair Bolsonaro. Some state federations have also expressed their support for the return. How does CBF deal with this pressure?
I would say that (CBF) president Rogério Caboclo is very clear about this. The return will only take place on health security. In no time will we go beyond the line of responsibility. We think that this has to be local. Some federations have made great strides in this, such as Santa Catarina, Paraná and Rio and Janeiro. Local wills do not interfere at the national level. Our task is to provide all possible support. We will wait for the Ministry of Health before we can return. There is no political pressure outside the health care system to alter CBF’s position.
Is it possible to make any predictions about when football will return?
We are exactly at the peak of the pandemic. And we don’t know the size of that peak’s plateau. We have many positive elements, such as articulation with federations and dialogue with clubs. But the express recommendation I have from President Caboclo is not to give any dates yet. In other words, we are doing everything correctly, in a sensible way, but we have not yet talked about deadlines.