Coronavirus-stricken Portuguese club Belenenses start 9-man soccer match against Benfica

Portuguese club Belenenses started a league game against Benfica with just nine players after a coronavirus outbreak in their squad on Saturday. It was then called off right after half-time. With two fewer players, Belenenses quickly found itself lagging behind. Benfica scored every goal in the 7-0 first half victory. (More football news)

The referee called off the match just after the start of the second half. Only seven players took the field for Belenenses, who quickly lost another player, goalkeeper Joao Monteiro, who was playing in midfield, fell to the turf, leaving them just six.

In other cases, the match was reportedly postponed, but Portuguese Premiera Liga authorities continued with the match. News emerged that 14 players and three Belenenses staff had tested positive.

Football laws allow matches to be played as long as each team has seven players, including a goalkeeper. Club president Rui Pedro Soares said despite a decimated squad his club had not requested a postponement of the game.

Before the match started, the Belenenses players shared a joint statement which read: “Football only has a heart if it is competitive. Football only has a heart if it is sporty. Football only has a heart when it is an example of public health. Today, football has lost its heart.

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