Brazilian officials said Monday that if the teams decide to host the Copa America, they will play at the stadium without fans. Leo Correa / AP hide caption
Leo Correa / AP
Leo Correa / AP
South America’s biggest soccer competition could be moved to Brazil in a last-minute maneuver to save the troubled tournament less than two weeks from kick-off, but Brazilian officials say there is more to consider.
The South American Football Confederation announced that the move was a done deal after an emergency meeting on Monday morning. However, after widespread criticism and calls for officials to be brought to the Brazilian Supreme Court, leaders say the public can expect a final decision on Tuesday.
“Nothing is certain, but I want to make it very clear that we are in the middle of this process and we are not shirking a request that can possibly be fulfilled.” explained Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Brazil’s minister of the community center, in a press conference on Monday afternoon.
“We’re checking the details. If God willing, we’ll have a final position tomorrow,” said Ramos.
He added that teams and their employees must follow health guidelines, including vaccination. Ramos also said the competition, dubbed the Cornavirus Cup by critics, would be held in empty stadiums with no spectators. The 10 participating teams would be allowed a maximum of 65 people per delegation, said Ramos.
“Nothing is signed. These are just negotiations,” he repeated.
Copa America drama
Monday’s confusion is just the latest chapter in the pre-tournament chaos as much of South America, including Brazil, is gripped by the global pandemic, with some of the world’s worst infection and death rates.
The Copa America was to be the first joint tournament in the 105-year history of the organization of Colombia and Argentina. But Colombia was dropped on May 20 over anti-government protests sparked by President Iván Duque’s proposed tax hikes. And on Sunday the CONMEBOL Football Association removed Argentina as co-hosts due to the “current circumstances”.
While failing to set out what she meant by the statement, the organization has come under increasing pressure to move the tournament from Argentina as that country is experiencing a huge surge in COVID-19 cases. The government has since renewed a strict lockdown.
Brazil is a hot spot for the pandemic
On Sunday, Argentine officials reported more than 39,000 new cases after a week that included a record number of cases in a single day, with more than 77,000 deaths since the pandemic began Data from the World Health Organization.
But the conditions in Brazil are balanced worse. As of Sunday, there were 16,391,930 confirmed cases with 459,045 deaths – the second highest number of registered deaths, the WHO reported.
Despite the horrific case and death rates, President Jair Bolsonaro controversially agreed to host the competition. The far-right leader has spoken out strongly against enforcing lockdowns that would close or restrict economic activity to prevent the spread of COVID.
CONMEBOL officials publicly thanked Bolsonaro for hosting the competition, which brings joy and passion to millions of South Americans.
Thousands protest against Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic crisis
“That comes at a time when [Bolsonaro’s] Audience ratings are falling, “said Philip Reeves of NPR told Everything considered.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters marched angrily in more than 200 cities demanding that Bolsonaro be charged with his disastrous handling of the health crisis. Opponents say the populist leader undermined social distancing efforts that could have stopped or contained the spread of the deadly virus and condemned him for failing to get adequate vaccines.
Following the Monday morning announcement, several public figures expressed outrage at the sudden decision to host the Copa America, with several leaders flat out reject to host one of the games.
Bolsonaro has defended his response to the pandemic, and after the massive demonstrations, the president and his supporters criticized the crowds that marched largely unmasked while ignoring social distancing guidelines.
“Bolsonaro supporters step in and say if his opponents can jam the streets like that, how can they criticize Bolsonaro for hosting the Copa America,” said Reeves.
The tournament attracts huge audiences in South America and around the world and represents a significant financial gain for CONMEBOL.
“The last Copa America, which took place in Brazil in 2019, brought in 118 million US dollars and was the second largest annual source of income after the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of the European Champions League,” says Reuters reported.