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Wednesday September 18th, 2019 6:52PM

Brazil's Flamengo criticized for licensing issues after fire

By The Associated Press
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil's soccer club Flamengo came under mounting criticism for licensing issues at its training ground on Saturday, a day after a fire ripped through a dormitory and left 10 dead. Three teenagers are still in the hospital, including one in serious condition.

Rio de Janeiro's city hall said in a statement Friday night the club was fined 30 times because of infractions at the Ninho do Urubu training ground, which had to be closed in October 2017.

The current permit issued for the grounds is valid until March 8.

Rio's city hall also said the sleeping quarters where Flamengo's teenage players died was irregularly licensed as a parking lot.

"The lodging area hit by the fire is not included in the last project approved by our licensing," it said. "There are no registers of new licensing requests for that area as a sleeping quarter."

The administration of Mayor Marcelo Crivella said it would open an investigation.

Flamengo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The incident came just two weeks after a dam collapse unleashed a flood of mining waste in Minas Gerais state that killed at least 134 people and left hundreds of others missing, stirring a wave of controversy over shoddy infrastructure and lax oversight in Latin America's largest nation.

"Flamengo has always been a negligent club with its grassroots divisions. The structure for their young people is ridiculous and very risky compared to that of their professionals," said a former Flamengo player who spent 10 years with the institution and asked to remain anonymous because he still played in a professional capacity.

"All of the young people in my generation see ourselves reflected in this tragedy," he added, noting that some young players weren't well-nourished at the club either. "If law officials investigate, more irregularities will come to light. It's a situation that not only occurs in Flamengo but in all Brazilian football."

Professional players of the Rio-based club arrived at Ninho do Urubu on Saturday dressed in black for a training session, and a weekend Rio de Janeiro state championship match against archrival Fluminense was canceled.

The cause of the fire was unknown, but authorities were looking at a possible short circuit in the room's air conditioning system.

The club said player Jhonata Ventura is still in serious condition, while athletes Cauan Emanuel and Francisco Dyogo were listed in stable condition.

A club spokesman also told journalists that only DNA tests will identify the heavily burned remains of five victims, a process that could take months.

Local police on Saturday said they have already heard testimonies from 13 surviving players and three Flamengo staffers.

The club did not immediately offer an explanation for the incident, but board executives were expected to testify next week.

Flamengo's president described it as "the worst tragedy to happen to the club in its 123 years."

Like many professional clubs, Flamengo has a development program for promising young players. Many, particularly those who live outside of Rio de Janeiro, stay at the facilities while training.

Not long ago, Brazilian-born soccer stars Vinicius Jr and Lucas Paqueta were living at the same training ground. Vinicius Jr now plays for Real Madrid and Paqueta plays for AC Milan.

_____

Savarese reported from Sao Paulo.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP World News
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