Benfica coach baffled by ban on supporters in Portugal

FILE PHOTO: Benfica's players celebrate with coach Jorge Jesus after beating Maritimo and winning the Portuguese Premier League title at Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, May 23, 2015. REUTERS/Hugo Correia/File Photo

LISBON (Reuters) - Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is baffled by the Portuguese government’s refusal to allow any spectators to watch football matches in the country, he said on Friday.

Jesus said he could not understand why crowds were banned at football while cinemas and theatres were open and the annual three-day Avante music festival went ahead this month.

“Of all activities, football is the one which has best managed to cope and live with the virus,” he told reporters.

“I don’t understand why we can’t have spectators at football matches.

“I don’t understand this talk that being at a football match is different to going to the cinema, the theatre or the Avante festival,” he added, referring to comments made by Prime Minister Antonio Costa earlier this month.

The 66-year-old Jesus, who has returned for a second stint at Benfica after coaching Brazilian club Flamengo last season, said he believed that 15,000 or 20,000 people could be allowed to watch matches at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz.

Portugal currently allows restaurants and cafes to open with strict restrictions, while cinemas and theatres are also open with allocated seats and reduced capacity. The Avante festival was subject to crowd limits when it took place.

“We have to know how to test, isolate and prevent,” added Jesus. “Otherwise, we all stay indoors at home and go crazy.”

Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris