Testing for UEFA leader will allow trophy presentations
MADRID, Aug 10, (AP): Atlético Madrid said Monday that Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko have tested positive for the coronavirus but the rest of the squad has been cleared to make the trip to Portugal for the Champions League quarter-finals.
The team announced the two positive tests on Sunday but had not identified who was infected. It said the entire squad was re-tested and results came back negative for everyone else on Monday. Atlético will face Leipzig on Thursday. It will be traveling to Portugal on Tuesday.
The last eight is scheduled to begin in Lisbon on Wednesday amid tight health safety protocols to prevent a coronavirus outbreak from derailing the competition’s finale.
The semifinals and Aug 23 final will also be played in Lisbon. Other clubs involved in the quarterfinals have not reported any positive tests among its players recently. Meanwhile, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin will undergo testing for the coronavirus that will allow him to present the Champions League trophy to the winners. Ceferin and general secretary Theodore Theodoridis will be tested two days before the finals of Europe’s three club competitions this month so they can hand over the medals and trophies, UEFA said Monday.
Some competitions during the pandemic have seen players have to collect their own medals, including at the FA Cup final in England. In men’s soccer, the Champions League final is in Lisbon, Portugal on Aug 23 – two days after the Europa League concludes in Cologne, Germany. The Women’s Champions League final is on Aug 30 in Bilbao, Spain.
“The organization’s leaders will be tested before leaving for the first match and at regular intervals in between, as required by the local authorities concerned,” UEFA said. Portugal is taking center stage for soccer during the next two weeks – a country where rivalries between clubs go well beyond the field of play. The decisive stages of the Champions League will begin on Wednesday in the southern European nation where back-and-forth accusations and legal actions involving the country’s top teams are routine. Club officials are not afraid of attacking each other publicly.
The government is often probing teams for alleged wrongdoing. Not even players and their agents are free from controversy. It wasn’t long ago that search-andseizure operations took place simultaneously at the headquarters of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon, the country’s three biggest clubs. It happened just before the coronavirus pandemic struck, as authorities investigated possible tax fraud and irregularities in soccer in an operation called “Offside”.
Presidents of all three clubs have been accused of some sort of wrongdoing over the past years, though they have always claimed innocence and actual convictions have been rare. Benfica, two-time European champions in the 1960s and Portugal’s most successful club with 37 league titles, has been targeted in more than a handful of cases in the last five years. Trading of its shares was temporarily suspended last month after the latest accusations were made against the club over alleged tax fraud.
Benfica are coming off one of their biggest legal victories, though, in a 2019 high-profile case in which a Porto media officer was accused of systematically releasing information from internal emails obtained from the rival. Porto was ordered by a judge to pay nearly 2 million euros ($2.3 million) in damages to Benfica, as well as to return any documents it still possessed related to the case. Porto said at the time the emails showed a corruption scheme that benefited Benfica, something that has not been proven in court. Porto claimed it only released information that the court itself had considered to be true.
Details about the case were constantly discussed in sports shows and across Portuguese media outlets, which often resort to anonymous sources to publish information about court cases involving the clubs. After a recent round of accusations against Benfica President Luís Filipe Vieira were published by local media, the club’s lawyers released a statement lamenting the way the official was being publicly scrutinized. “It’s regrettable,” the statement said. “Judgments are being made in the court of public opinion and in the media. Justice would be better served if everyone kept to their own businesses.”