Bolsonaro denies pressuring national coach Tite to step down

Brasilia, Jun 7 (EFE).- Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro on Monday denied that he is calling for Tite to be dismissed amid reports the national soccer team coach is allegedly refusing to take part in the Copa America, which is due to kick off next week in Brazil.

The tournament was originally supposed to be held in Argentina and Colombia, but they pulled out as host countries due to coronavirus concerns and violent anti-government protests in the latter nation.

“My participation in the Copa America is to open Brazil to be held here, but about players or coaches, I have nothing to do with it,” the president told a small group of supporters at the gates of his official residence in Brasilia, referring to recent reports in the local press that Tite and his players are firmly against playing the tournament in the midst of an uncontrolled spike in the pandemic and could be planning a boycott.

There has been speculation that Tite will announce his resignation after the team’s match on Tuesday in Asuncion against Paraguay in the South American World Cup qualifiers.

The coach and players have said that they only comment on the Copa America situation, after that match.

The Copa America matches, which are expected to kick off on June 13, will be played without fans in four different regions: the states of Mato Grosso, Rio de Janeiro and Goias and the capital, Brasilia, according to President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Luiz Ramos.

A total of 10 sides are slated to participate in South America’s soccer championship: Brazil (which hosted the previous event and is defending champion), Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Colombia was the first country to withdraw from hosting this year’s event, making that decision after the South American Soccer Confederation (Conmebol) rejected its request to have the event postponed due to the Andean nation’s high coronavirus case load and large-scale social unrest.

After Argentina pulled out as host country last month in response to a surge in coronavirus cases, Conmebol surprisingly passed the baton to Brazil, a country that has reported 16.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases (third-most worldwide after the United States and India) and nearly a half-million deaths (second most after the US). EFE


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