After Argentina and Colombia were removed from co-hosting this year’s Copa America, the tournament will be held in Brazil instead.
CONMEBOL has confirmed the 2021 Copa America will go ahead as planned, with Brazil taking over hosting duties. This year’s edition of the tournament – postponed from 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – had been due to be shared between Colombia and Argentina.
It was going to be the first time in its history that the tournament would be co-hosted by two countries. However, ten days ago CONMEBOL stripped Colombia of its duties amid street protests that were met with a heavy-handed police response that drew international condemnation. More than a month into the unrest, dozens of people have died.
This left Argentina as the sole host, but Sunday saw CONMEBOL also strip Argentina of hosting rights in the context of a record coronavirus surge that has seen a daily death toll of about 500 on average, and between 21,000 and 40,000 new cases per day.
The country has had more than 77,000 deaths in the pandemic to date and nearly 3.8 million infections. On May 22, Argentina entered a nine-day lockdown in the hopes of flattening the infection curve ahead of the sports event.
The country had presented a “strict protocol” to CONMEBOL for hosting the tournament, which involved preparing additional stadiums and reducing the size of each team’s delegation.
But a poll last week found that 70 percent of Argentinians believed the country should withdraw, and CONMEBOL agreed. “CONMEBOL informs that in view of the current circumstances it has decided to suspend the organization of the Copa America in Argentina,” the governing body tweeted.
Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez said he had asked CONMEBOL for “time” until Monday to analyze the health situation, but that the country was “on epidemiological alert”.
His chief of staff, Santiago Cafiero, added that “with so many cases we could not carry out an organization of these characteristics. Argentina had a commitment that we tried at all times to meet, but the epidemiological reality prevented it”.
Change of hosts
CONMEBOL met on Monday to determine the future of the competition, electing to move the tournament to Brazil, who were crowned champions on home soil in 2019. A post from the governing body’s official Twitter account read: “The CONMEBOL Copa America 2021 will be played in Brazil!
“Tournament start and end dates are confirmed. The venues and the fixture will be informed by CONMEBOL in the next few hours. The oldest national team tournament in the world will make the whole continent shake!” the tweet continued. The tournament will run from June 13 to July 10.
New host Brazil is one of the countries in the world worst affected by the outbreak, with the second-highest death toll of over 460,000 so far and more than 16.5 million cases.
The Fiocruz research institute has warned of a new surge in the pandemic in the country already hard hit by a more infectious new strain, and where many people have died due to a shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.
In Brazil, opposition congressman Marcelo Freixo was among the first to denounce the latest move. “Argentina refused the Copa America because of the worsening pandemic. There, the average of deaths in the last seven days was 470 people… Here, it’s 1,844 FOUR TIMES MORE. This is a picture of a murderous government.”
Added sports commentator Alexandre Lozetti, of TV Globo on the same platform: “Suggestions for a mascot for the Copa America in Brazil? How about Covidinho (Little Covid)?”
Brazil has the best infrastructure in the region for hosting the Copa, with several modern stadiums left over from the Brazil 2014 World Cup. CONMEBOL is expected to announce venues and dates for the matches in the coming hours.