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    Brazil championship to kick off in August despite pandemic

    SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian soccer clubs have decided to start the country’s main championship on Aug. 9, despite the concern of health experts who predict the coronavirus pandemic could be peaking in the country at that time.

    The top-flight competition was initially scheduled to begin in May but was postponed because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

    Brazil’s soccer confederation issued a statement Thursday saying the agreement on the dates and on health protocols came in a meeting with representatives of all 40 clubs of the two main divisions. The restart will depend on clearances from health authorities.

    More than 55,000 have died from COVID-19 in Brazil and about 1.2 million people have been infected, second only to the United States. Confirmed cases are still rising.

    The Brazilian soccer confederation said 19 of the 20 clubs in the top flight were open to playing in other cities if their hometowns are considered not safe enough by health authorities.

    Soccer made a partial return last week in the country after a three-month suspension, but only local league games in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Clubs in other state leagues are only contemplating a return next month.

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    Players and sports executives who think it is too risky to start playing are still protesting and appealing to local sports courts.

    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and powerful Rio club Flamengo have been lobbying for the return of soccer since May.

    More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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