Athletes face financial woes amid pandemic

Athletes financial woes pandemic
Empty training center in São Paulo. Photo: Fabio Arantes/ Secom/ PMSP

Brazilian boxer Esquiva Falcão is a textbook example of the struggles faced by a large percentage of Latin American athletes since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Having lost his sponsorship, the 31-year-old Olympic silver medalist has been working as a pizza delivery boy to make ends meet. 

“Everything stopped and I had to find a way out of it. We managed to survive making pizzas,” he told news website Globo Esporte. Falcão even considered selling his Olympic medal, won in London 2012, to pay his bills. 

On the back of a social media campaign, pro-Bolsonaro businessman Luciano Hang — owner of the Havan chain of department stores — decided to step in and sponsor Esquiva Falcão. The pair announced their partnership during a large indoor event in the southern city of Brusque, with hundreds of people gathering in Havan’s headquarters, very few of whom were wearing face masks. Esquiva Falcão said he can now “focus on the sport again.” 

Sports during the pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has been especially harsh on the world of sport. A Stanford University study showed the prevalence of depression among athletes skyrocketing during the pandemic, from 3.9 percent before to 22.5 percent now. The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics caused a widespread financial crisis in the sector, with several public and private companies cutting their sponsorships. 

In Costa Rica, the government decided to provide financial aid to athletes, which is still far from happening in many other nations. 

A survey by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) showed that 56 percent of athletes are finding it difficult to train properly during the pandemic, which could affect their careers and make it hard to find sponsorship.