The custom of kissing the ball for good luck in South American football is set to be banned. As is the ritual of exchanging pennants before a game and the swapping shirts afterwards. As for blowing the nose or spitting on the pitch, forget it!
It follows the procedures issued by CONMEBOL, the governing body of the sport in the region, in response to the challenges to the health and well-being of players posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Clubs will be monitored for compliance with the guidelines and, failure to do so could see them fined, or even excluded from the inter-regional competitions like the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of the Champions League, or the secondary tournament, the Copa Sudamericano. Amongst the other changes introduced are a requirement to take the body temperature of players before a match, whilst players, coaches and other staff sat on the bench during a game must wear masks at all times. In addition, masks need to be worn during aft-match interviews and press conferences.
Like other federations the world over, CONMEBOL has also embraced the temporary change to the law which has been introduced, increasing the number of substitutes allowed per match to five, recognising that there is an increased risk of player fatigue and injury due to having to play an increased number of matches in a short time frame after a period of inactivity.
There is no news yet when the inter-regional cup competitions will be allowed to start again – South America is behind much of the rest of the world when it comes to combatting the disease and subsequently coming out of lockdown, so it may not be until September at the earliest.
In another move CONMEBOL, which has already distributed US $79 million to help national associations struggling to cope with the financial consequences of the crisis, has agreed to give an additional US $14 million in aid.