Copa America is one of the most prestigious tournaments in South America, with each game offering remarkable passion and excitement. This summer’s edition, which was postponed to 2020, would be a unique edition as it would be the first Copa America to be hosted by two countries. rights by CONMEBOL, who instead awarded the final to Brazil just two weeks before the competition was due to start.
But the resolution to remove Colombia and Argentina from hosting the tournament has not reassured the Copa América.
As Brazil was named as the new host, local health experts and politicians were cracking down on the decision to hold the troubled event in one of the countries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Voices of dissent
More than 4.70,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Brazil, a figure that is second only to the US. Several analysts have also expressed concern about a new wave of the virus hitting the country at the end of June.
Holding a football tournament amid such a crisis has led thousands of Brazilians to express their anger at President Jair Bolsonaro on social media and many observers have predicted that opposition could grow during the Copa America.
“ICU beds in hospitals are more than 80 percent occupied and scientists have also expressed concerns about organizing the tournament where a more transmissible variant of the virus is dominant,” Rita Galvao, a doctor in Brazil, told the newspaper. indianexpress.com.
“Supporting the Copa America in Brazil became a political issue because people who support Bolsonaro seem to have no problem organizing the tournament at the moment, despite there being a more aggressive variant in the country and only a small part of the population is fully vaccinated. (about 11 percent),” she added.
Miguel Nicolelis, a renowned Brazilian neuroscientist, raised a red flag on Twitter, writing: “Can someone file an injunction with the Supreme Court to stop another attack on the Brazilian people? Copa America will take place the moment we hit the 5,000 Reaching .000 deaths from Covid. We don’t need more circuses, we need vaccines and a government.”
Furthermore, there are voices of dissent from people close to the president. Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Bolsonaro’s current secretary of government, has expressed doubts about the event. The governors of the state of Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Norte, two of the hosts of the 2014 World Cup, have also objected to playing matches in their countries.
So far, Brazil’s local authorities have not sanctioned the presence of fans in stadiums, something Bolsonaro favors.
“Obviously we don’t have it right here (in Argentina), so that was the right decision by CONMEBOL. If it’s difficult there (Brazil), we can’t play,” Argentina striker Sergio Aguero told reporters last week.
— Copa America (@CopaAmerica) June 10, 2021
Concerns have also been raised by participating teams. On Wednesday, the Brazilian national team players and their staff published a letter on social media accounts criticizing the organizers of the tournament but assuring that they would still participate if the tournament went ahead.
Just days before the start of the tournament, the Brazilian Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the controversial organization of Copa America. This was after two requests — by the national metal workers’ union CNTM and by opposition congressman Julio Delgado and his Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) — to prevent Brazil from hosting the tournament.
Bolsonaro’s main rival in the next election, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, chairman of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), also made a similar request.
Incidentally, Brazil’s current Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga has defended the decision to keep Brazil as host.
“Without presence in the stadiums, we have no risk of gatherings and greater contamination,” Queiroga said earlier on Tuesday. “The risk for a person of contracting COVID-19 will be the same with the matches on it or without it. I’m not saying there won’t be any risks, I’m saying there won’t be any additional risk,” he added.
The Copa America starts on June 13 and ends with the final on July 10. Brazil and Venezuela will open the Copa America in Brasilia on Sunday night, unless Thursday’s hearing ends the plans.