By Carlos A. Moreno
Rio de Janeiro, May 27 (efe-epa).- Hairdressing, selling fruit and home deliveries are just some of the jobs professional footballers have branched into to make ends meet during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I confess that it is very difficult, but we have to find a way to survive. We depend on football and at the moment it has stopped. So we had to search and that is what I did,” Carlos Alberto Lopes da Silva tells Efe.
The defender for America Football Club has been working as a hairdresser for two months.
Gedeilson Vander Alves de Oliveira, right-back at Madureira Esporte Clube, adds: “I had a very good salary in soccer and working at the kiosk (selling fruit) my income dropped by almost 90 percent, but it helps me pay the bills and adds to the little I had saved.”
Both are small clubs that compete in the Serie D league and Carioca Championship, where teams from the state of Rio de Janeiro battle it out at the annual tournament.
Both America, where 1994 world champion Jorginho played, and Madureira, where Evaristo de Macedo debuted in 1950, are awaiting authorization to resume training and conclude a tournament that was abruptly halted during the group stage.
Brazil has the world’s second largest Covid-19 caseload and is expecting to reach the peak of infection in July, but so far there has been no consensus on when the country’s most popular sport might resume.
Not even the clubs can agree on a start date.
Flamengo, the most popular club in the country and current league champion, and Libertadores rebooted training flouting guidelines issued by the Rio Mayor.
Corinthians, the second most popular club, has said the priority at present is the health of citizens in a country that has recorded nearly 24,000 deaths and 375,000 infections.
Many footballers, despite needing their salaries, defend a safe and staggered return to stadiums devoid of spectators.
Brazilian president and far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro, who famously described Covid-19 as a flu, has called for the resumption of all economic activities and was one of the first to ring alarm bells over the crisis small football clubs would suffer.
Larger clubs have agreed on a reduction of salaries and have the resources to go on this way for some time, but small ones, with no other source of income than the ticket office, have suspended payments and terminated contracts.
According to an Ernst & Young study, 55 percent of professional players in Brazil earn up to a minimum salary, around $180 monthly.
Many who lost their wages now depend on a $109 government subsidy.
When America issued temporary layoffs, Carlos Alberto was left without an income.
Gedeilson was left unemployed because his contract with Madureira expired in April and was not renewed.
They are just two examples of thousands across the Latin American country of 210 million inhabitants and hundreds of soccer clubs.
Forward Jonatas Rey, a player for the Paragominas of the state of Pará, uses a borrowed bicycle to deliver hamburgers.