Costa Rica Resumes Its National Soccer Tournament Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

It was recently informed that the Costa Rican soccer league will resume, and it has a date, Wednesday, May 20th, but the matches Guadalupe-Limón (21:00 GMT) and Cartaginés-Alajuelense (02:00 GMT) were re-scheduled for Tuesday May 19th. But it will do so without an audience and abiding by an extensive protocol of preventive and restrictive measures.

Costa Rica, which has achieved much success in the containment of COVID-19, with a low level of infection and lethality, thus becomes the first Latin American country to bring back professional soccer, with the exception of Nicaragua, which never suspended its tournament, that has remained active, culminating nine days ago with Real Estelí as champion.

This will be the sanitary protocol during the tournament

The Costa Rican Ministries of Health and Sport established that the matches will be played without an audience and the gel alcohol must be present at the entrance doors of the stadiums, in the bathrooms, in the dressing rooms and on the benches for their constant use. Here are some other measures:

  1. Players and coaches must be disinfected with proper hand washing and gel alcohol in the entrance tunnel to the field. At the end of the first half, before the second half starts and after the matches have ended.
  2. Soccer players may not greet each other on the pitch or celebrate goals in a group manner.
  3. On the bench, the teams must guarantee the distance between each person and the use of masks is mandatory, even for the fourth referee.
  4. Masks are mandatory in the mixed zone and on the buses that transport the teams.
  5. Footballers are prohibited from sitting in pairs, sharing hotel rooms or personal vehicles.
  6. The balls used will be disinfected before the game and at half time.
  7. Before the games, the medical staff must check the players and, if symptoms are found, there is a protocol for the management of suspicious cases that requires isolation and transfer to a medical center.

Media restrictions

For the press, it will be allowed the presence in the stadiums of radio and television media that have paid broadcast rights, but with a reduced number of personnel, abiding by the established sanitary measures to avoid any contagion during the sporting event.

ESPN journalist David Faitelson said: “I welcome Costa Rica as the first CONCACAF league to restart. It can also be a laboratory, as the Germans with the Bundesliga, so that other leagues can also adapt to the “new normal” that the soccer industry is going to live for a while. We will see how it works in Costa Rica ”.

Regarding the paying of the players and staff

On March 24th, the Association of Professional Soccer Players announced a salary agreement with the clubs that establishes differentiated payments due to the suspension of the tournament.

After March 15th, the clubs promised to keep the full salary for those who earn 500,000 colones ($ 870) or less per month. To those who earn more, the club will pay 500,000 colones, plus half the rest of their salary.

The agreement also states that players will receive 60% of their salary if the tournament resumes behind closed doors. The return of football is part of a plan to de-escalate the restrictions on economic activities announced by the Government and whose first phase began last Saturday.

To date, Costa Rica has accumulated 863 cases of COVID-19, of which 565 people have recovered (65.5%), there are 288 active cases and 10 death.

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