Belgium's Red Devils to play before crowd of 7,000 as Brussels shuts bars

Belgium's Red Devils to play before crowd of 7,000 as Brussels shuts bars

A match between Belgium's national football team and the Ivory Coast, coinciding with the closedown of all bars in the capital, will be allowed to go forward with 7,000 spectators on Thursday.

Initially set at 11,000, the Football Association (RBFA) capped ticket sales for Thursday's match at 7,000 following a tightening of coronavirus measures in Brussels announced on Wednesday.

The sale of alcohol in the stadium and in its surroundings will be banned for the occasion, according to Brussels City Sports Councillor Benoît Hellings.

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Supporters will be allowed in groups of maximum five people and stadium staff will accommodate supporters so that every occupied row is sandwiched between two free ones.

All audience members, including children under 12 years old, will be required to wear a face mask throughout the game and encouraged to remain seated.

Temperature checks will be carried out at the entrance with the RBFA saying in an online statement that "access can be refused to anyone with a temperature seemingly above 37.6ºC."

The decision to still allow the game to go forward but with fewer spectators comes after the RBFA announced last week that fans' return to the stadium had been given the greenlight.

Hellings said, with the match coinciding with a generalised shutdown of bars in the capital, "special measures" were needed for the event on Thursday.

Officials in Brussels on Wednesday decided to shut down all bars for a month but keep restaurants open, advancing that the potential for excited or rowdy behaviour and for heated conversations, also common to live sports events, was higher in bars than in restaurants.

"I only recently learned that we had to take this measure," Hellings said. "But the Red Devils are important and I think it's valuable that the people of Brussels can come and cheer on their heroes, subject to the strict conditions."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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