BENFICA’S Portuguese League game with Covid-ravaged Belenenses ended in a farcical abandonment with only 17 fit players on the pitch.
Belenenses started the game with only NINE men after 17 of their squad were struck down with the virus.
Benfica’s clash with Belenenses descended into a farceCredit: Reuters
The game was called off when Joao Monteiro went down claiming to be injured with his team 7-0 behindCredit: AFP
But although club president Rui Pedro Soares refused to postpone the game, he was in tears at half-time as Benfica led 7-0.
It sparked Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, who came through the Benfica academy, to tweet: “What is this? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand why the game hasn’t been postponed?”
Only seven Belenenses players started the second half – the minimum required – before keeper Joao Monteiro – playing as an outfield player – booted the ball out and sat down, claiming he was injured.
At that point ref Manuel Mota abandoned the match.
The Belenenses players released a joint statement which read: “Today, football lost its heart.”
Belenenses midfielder Cafu Phete recently returned from international duty in South Africa, sparking fears the infections were related to the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Europe is on alert over the new mutant strain – and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new crackdown measures on Saturday.
Mask-wearing will again be compulsory in shops and buses, trains and taxis in England.
Overseas travel and self-isolation rules have been tightened after the first two cases of the super-strain were detected in Britain.
Johnson also urged people to get booster jabs, saying: “It’s more vital than ever.”
Omicron — discovered only days ago in southern Africa — has been declared the worst variant yet by one expert, while there are fears it might reduce vaccine protection over time.
The first reported cases in Europe of the new variant were found in Belgium earlier this week.