Farce as Belenenses start game with nine men – including two keepers

Belenenses’s Primeira Liga game with Benfica was abandoned early in the second half after a Covid outbreak had forced them to start the match with just nine men – two of them goalkeepers.

Instead of postponing the game when news emerged that 14 players and three staff members had tested positive, Portuguese league authorities sanctioned it going ahead due to both clubs still being able to field the minimum required seven players.

The nine men went behind in the first minute to an own goal, and were 7-0 down at the break. After an extended half-time, just seven Belenenses players returned to start the second half. A minute later the referee was forced to call the game off when João Monteiro, a goalkeeper playing in midfield, dropped to the pitch claiming injury.

The Belenenses players had released a joint statement before kick-off, saying: “Football only has heart if it is competitive. Football only has heart if it is sporting. Football only has heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football has lost its heart.”

The club’s president, Rui Pedro Soares, said that despite the rash of positive tests he had not requested a postponement due to fears over fixture congestion. “The calendar has not been planned well – and the consequences are clear to see.”

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