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Gremio players wear masks in protest against playing amid coronavirus outbreak

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Players from Brazilian club Gremio took to the field wearing masks on Sunday in protest at having to play a football match as fears over coronavirus grow.

Led by manager Renato Portaluppi, the players walked out of the tunnel to face Sao Luiz and lined up before the game wearing white masks over their faces.

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Gremio won the Gaucho state championship match 3-2 in front of empty stands at the Gremio arena, but Portaluppi threatened to strike unless they call a halt to the footballing programme.

"It is time for Gremio to take a stand and that was to wear masks to alert authorities that players are people too," he said. "We are not immune to viruses.

"There's no point in closing the doors to fans. So the fans are protected and screw those who work in football."

"The whole world has stopped, shouldn't Brazilian football stop as well? That's our message and I hope they listen. We hope that good sense will prevail."

Hours later the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said it was suspending all national competitions until further notice.

The halt covers the Brazilian Cup, the women's first and second divisions and youth leagues. The main national championships, Series A through D, do not start until May.

The suspension does not cover the state championships, with the CBF saying each state will have to decide whether or not to keep playing.

The protest came as players and clubs across South America began to complain at decisions by footballing authorities to order games to be played, but behind closed doors.

Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus appealed for football to be halted, and said players needed to be protected because "they are not super human".

In Argentina, River Plate refused to play their Superliga cup tie against Atletico Tucuman on Saturday. The Buenos Aires club closed their stadium, leaving match officials and an advance team from Atletico outside the ground.