Brazil’s two largest football clubs, Flamengo and Corinthians, have an average attendance per game of 52,000 and 33,000 people, respectively. Were we to put these crowds together in one stadium, we still would have 5,000 fewer people than the number of Brazilians who have died from Covid-19, five months since the first case was detected.
Perhaps if Brazil had employed the same energy it used to demand the return of football — with competitions now back underway up and down the country — and applied it to Covid-19 prevention measures, perhaps the death count would be significantly lower. The decision to allow Brazilian football to return followed successful resumptions of national championships across Europe and Asia, but with a significant difference: in these countries, the pandemic had been brought under control well before the discussion of getting players back on the pitch was brought to the fore.
In the first game back in Brazil, in mid-June, Flamengo and Bangu played out a meaningless encounter in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium, next door to a busy Covid-19 field hospital. While Flamengo dispatched of Bangu three goals to nil, with no fans in attendance, one of the coronavirus patients died only a few hundred meters away.
And this week, in São Paulo — the state with the highest number of Covid-19 cases and deaths — the local football championship reached its final knockout round. On Wednesday evening, tiny countryside club Mirassol took on giants São Paulo in a quarter-final match after seeing 18 players leave the squad during the pandemic stoppage. Regardless, the minnows won 3-2.
With more than 90,000 Covid-19 deaths and over 2.5 million confirmed cases, Brazil is set to continue battling the facts and pushing for a premature return to normality. In the 2014 World Cup, Germany famously trounced Brazil 7-1, but in 2020, Covid-19 is battering them 90,000 to nil.