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Two weeks before the scheduled start of the Copa America (June 13-July 10), Argentina announces that it will not organize the event due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A withdrawal which comes 10 days after that of its co-organizer, Colombia, and which leaves doubt as to the holding of the tournament.
Will the Copa America take place? This is the question posed by Neymar, Lionel Messi and other South American football stars, after the withdrawal, Monday, May 31, of Argentina due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ten days after Colombia, it is Buenos Aires’ turn to fail Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, to organize the Copa America which was initially due to take place in 2020 before being postponed for a year. , like other major sporting events (Euro, Olympic Games), due to Covid-19.
“La Conmebol informs that in view of the current circumstances, it has decided to suspend the organization of the Copa America in Argentina,” she announced in a brief statement.
In just over a week, La Conmebol lost the two nations which were to co-organize its flagship meeting: Colombia, first of all, due to social unrest which left dozens of people dead in the country, and now Argentina, in the grip of a sharp increase in coronavirus contaminations.
Argentina, yet crazy about football and passionate about the exploits of its national team led by superstar Lionel Messi, had started a few days ago to prepare the ground for his withdrawal.
A major health risk
The Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, had warned of the difficulties of such an organization as the country of 45 million inhabitants is going through the most critical period of the pandemic, with more than 41,000 people infected for the single day of Thursday. Since the start of the pandemic, Argentina has recorded 3.7 million positive cases and 77,000 deaths.
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In this context, the Copa America has become for many Argentines a major health risk, with the arrival of ten South American teams made up of players from all over the world.
According to a poll published on Friday, 70% of Argentines were opposed to their country organizing the tournament, even if the authorities had planned to put in place a strict health protocol, in particular by limiting the size of the delegations.
Conmebol must now find a country willing to host the tournament at the last minute in a complicated health context and having the capacity to do so. In its press release, the South American confederation ensures it has alternatives, without giving more details. It simply specified that it was analyzing “the offer of other countries which have expressed their interest in hosting the continental tournament”.
Among the possible options, Chile, as recently mentioned by an official of Conmebol, the Argentinian Gonzalo Belloso, Venezuela or Ecuador.
The United States to the rescue ?
But at the end of last week, the specialized press echoed a lead … North American. The United States, where the health crisis is under control due to the high vaccination rate, has already hosted the Copa America, in 2016, and has the capacity in terms of stadiums to host the event. Moreover, this summer they are already organizing the Gold Cup, Concacaf’s flagship competition (North America, Central America and the Caribbean).
Unless the Copa 2021 is outright canceled. Some players, and not the least, are starting to express their opposition to the tournament being held.
“I am struck by the fact that the Copa America is being played despite the current situation,” said Luis Suárez, just crowned Spanish champion with Atletico Madrid, back in Uruguay to play on 3 and 8 June two qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
His compatriot Edinson Cavani is even more upset: “It is a terrible irresponsibility that everything is done to play these qualifying matches and the Copa America. Nothing in the social situation matters here, not even the risks linked to the virus, “he said.