Copa America fizzles in pandemic-battered Brazil

By Carlos Meneses Sanchez

Sao Paulo, Jul 8 (EFE).- The Brazilian national soccer team will face Argentina this weekend in the 2021 Copa America final at Rio de Janeiro’s hallowed Maracana Stadium, but few in this football-mad country seem to be very excited about the prospect of seeing the Canarinha hoist another trophy.

Brazil agreed to host the tournament after original co-hosts Argentina and Colombia backed out due to Covid-19, even though South America’s largest nation has been hit even harder, with nearly 530,000 coronavirus fatalities and roughly 20 million cases.

Brazilian television viewers have opted to watch Euro 2020 games or follow their favorites soap operas rather than tune into Copa America matches played in empty stadiums.

“I can’t remember a tournament that generated more disinterest,” Livia Magalhaes, a professor at Fluminense Federal University who has written several books about the history of football, told Efe.

She pointed to factors such as low public morale because of the Covid-19 crisis and unhappiness that rightist pandemic-denialist President Jair Bolsonaro brushed aside objections from health officials when he told the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) that Brazil was ready to host the tourney.

“We have to face that we are not in a moment of celebration in Brazil and Conmebol ignored that absurdly,” Magalhaes said.

On the street in Rio, it’s not hard to find football fans disenchanted with the 2021 version of the Copa America experience.

“No, I haven’t followed it at all. There’s no interest, as football is no longer what it was. The objective today is much more the financial aspect,” 47-year-old merchant Marcos de Oliveira said.

Michelle Alcantara, 21, said that she prefers watching Euro 2020 to the Copa America because the presence of spectators in the stands at the European matches “creates a more agreeable atmosphere” for TV viewing.

The television arm of Brazil’s largest media conglomerate, Globo, is airing Euro 2020 games, while Copa America matches can be viewed on SBT, ESPN and FOX Sports.

In greater Sao Paulo, the country’s largest media market, nearly as many people watched the Euro 2020 semifinal between Spain and Italy as the Copa America semi pitting Brazil against Peru.

The other Copa America semifinal, between Argentina and Colombia, drew only around a third of the audience who tuned into soap operas on Globo that aired during the same time slot.

Twitter Brasil has seen a steady decline in posting about the Copa America since the competition got under way on June 13, according to Leonardo Rios, an executive with brand management consultants Knewin.

And many of the nearly 50,000 tournament-related tweets posted since then express indignation about the decision to bring the Copa America to Brazil.

“The Copa America has not managed to separate itself from Covid,” Rios told Efe. EFE cms-jq-am/dr

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