Last-minute move to allow fans for Copa America final spurs chaos

Rio de Janeiro, Jul 10 (EFE).- The eleventh-hour decision to allow 5,400 spectators into the 2021 Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina led to scenes of confusion Saturday outside Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium in the hours before the match.

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 more than 530,000 coronavirus fatalities and roughly 20 million cases.

All of the previous matches were played behind closed doors, but the Rio municipal government agreed Friday to a request from the tournament organizers, the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) to permit fans at the final.

To be admitted, people must provide proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 within the preceding 48 hours.

Conmebol claimed more than 1,000 seats for players families, sponsors and public officials and gave the rest to the respective national federations to distribute.

By Saturday afternoon, crowds were gathering in front of the ticket windows at the Maracana and the agglomeration swelled as some people were turned away for presenting forged coronavirus test certificates.

Conmebol said in a statement that a “considerable” number of fraudulent documents were presented.

The fake certificates were detected by one of the testing labs, Larborlife, which learned that people pretending to be its employees were sending WhatsApp messages offering discounts on tests and quicker results.

While Brazil will be defending the Copa America crown they won two years ago, Lionel Messi’s Argentina squad is desperate to end a 28-year title drought for the Albiceleste. EFE cm/dr

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