Sao Paulo, Jun 1 (EFE).- Brazil’s government confirmed Tuesday that it will host the Copa America and said that international soccer tournament will take place at four different venues in the South American country.
It has taken on that role after the initially scheduled co-hosts, Argentina and Colombia, pulled out due to coronavirus concerns and violent anti-government protests in that latter country.
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.
“The Copa America in Brazil has been confirmed. Coherence won out! Brazil’s flag, which will host the matches of the (Copa) Libertadores, the (Copa) Sudamericana, not to mention regional and Brazilian competitions, couldn’t turn its back on a traditional championship like this one,” he wrote on Twitter.
Although Ramos confirmed four venues, Bolsonaro said at an event on Tuesday that the country is considering five possible sites, though without revealing the name of the fifth region.
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 weekend 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).
Bolsonaro, who notoriously referred to the coronavirus last year as a “measly flu,” has been dismissive of vaccines and frequently appears in public without a face mask, favors holding the tournament in Brazil even though the country remains one of the hardest-hit worldwide in terms of new daily confirmed cases and deaths attributed to Covid-19.
Bolsonaro’s decision sparked indignation among health experts and the leftist opposition in Brazil, which plans to open its borders to national team delegations even as other countries of the region less battered by the health crisis – including Argentina, Chile and Uruguay – are tightly restricting the cross-border flow of visitors.
Despite Ramos’s announcement, the fate of a legal challenge that the leftist main opposition Workers’ Party PT) filed with the Supreme Court to prevent Brazil from hosting the event remains uncertain.
“Considering the importance of the matter and the public health emergency stemming from the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the urgency the case requires, information has been requested of the president of the republic within the legal time frame,” Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski said earlier Tuesday. EFE