Argentina players are upset by CONMEBOL’s decision to move the Copa America to Brazil, with sources telling ESPN Brasil that they have even voiced their objections with players from the other countries, although they are resigned to travel to Brazil if plans continue.
South American football’s governing body (CONMEBOL) named Brazil as the host nation of the 47th Copa America on Monday, less than 24 hours after they announced Argentina would no longer stage the event that is due to start on June 13 and last until July 10 due to “the current situation.”
Colombia were supposed to serve as co-hosts for the event but pulled out on May 20, citing social and economic unrest in the country. They had previously asked that the tournament be postponed but that request was rejected by CONMEBOL.
Argentina players, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, are furious over the decision by the Argentina Football Association (AFA) and the country’s government to no longer host the event.
Last week, the AFA suspended all football activities for nine days following the health measures announced by Argentina president Alberto Fernandez to combat the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources have told ESPN Brasil that some Argentina players have contacted colleagues from other national teams competing at the Copa America in the hope they could join forces to stop the tournament from taking place.
Argentina players are worried about the coronavirus cases in Brazil, which has its own variant. They also know that their chances of winning the tournament are more difficult now that the event will be staged there. Brazil are the holders of the competition, having won it on home soil in 2019.
The change of venue also means that now national teams will see their preparation and travel altered.
No decision has yet been made on venues and talks are still ongoing between the government and CONMEBOL to reach a formal conclusion.
CONMEBOL’s decision has not been well received in Brazil, either. Hours after the announcement, Brazil’s Socialist Party (PSB), placed a court order in the Federal Supreme Tribunal (STF) to prevent the Copa America from taking place in the country. They considered the decision taken by the government led by Jair Bolsolnaro as “immoral” in view of the pandemic and with the country expected to be hit by a third wave. Moreover, a tournament of the magnitude of the Copa America would also put at risk the health of the population.
“Authoritarian governments used sport to win over the people,” the PSB’s leader Carlos Siqueira tweeted. “So does the president [Jair Bolsonaro] when accepting the Copa America in Brazil when we have almost 500,000 deaths by Covid. It is negotiating popularity with the spread of the virus in stadium clusters. A project of death.”
The last Copa America, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118 million in revenue.
Rui Costa, governor of the Brazil region of Bahia, has ruled out his region hosting any Copa America games, insisting that his priority is to vaccinate the population.
“Here in Bahia, the priority is to save human lives, keep working and generate income for the population,” he said.
“The priority we want is vaccine. Vaccine to save human lives, vaccine to resume employment, income, the economy. We hope that the federal government will be committed, dedicated and work towards the arrival of more vaccines quickly.”
Moreover, he added that the Bahia Fonte Nova stadium in the city of Salvador is not available to stage games.
“The stadium, due to the pandemic, is provisionally made up of ICU beds,” he said. “Therefore, here in Bahia, there will be no Copa America games held due to the use of the stadium to save human lives.”
Brazil’s Football Federation (CBF) also face decisions regarding the domestic leagues.
A delegation of Brazilian clubs reportedly met with executives from the CBF on Monday urging to postpone the Brasileiro tournament that is being played while the Copa America is staged in the country.
South American teams are also preparing for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers that were originally scheduled to be played in March but were postponed because of coronavirus travel restrictions.