CONMEBOL announced on Monday that Brazil will host the Copa América, a surprise departure to keep the competition afloat after the loss of co-organizers Argentina and Colombia a few weeks after its start.

“The Copa América will be played in Brazil,” the entity announced in a statement after an emergency virtual meeting of the members of the ten federations that comprise it. “The start and end dates of the tournament are confirmed. The venues and the fixture (calendar) will be informed by CONMEBOL in the next few hours ”.

Brazil, which had organized the contest in 2019, emerged as an alternative after Argentina gave up on the eve of holding the competition for the second wave of coronavirus. In turn, Colombia, the other co-host, was separated by CONMEBOL itself on May 20 due to the anti-government protests that have plagued the country since the end of April, with at least 40 deaths.

However, Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Brazil’s key minister, pointed out Monday afternoon that nothing had materialized and that the nation had not yet formally signed an agreement to host the tournament.

“We are in the middle of the process,” Ramos told reporters in Brasilia. “But we are not going to evade an application if we can. We are verifying the details, tomorrow we will have a final decision ”.

The Copa América, which was already suspended in 2020, is due to start on June 13 and the final is scheduled for July 10.

In a region overwhelmed by the pandemic and in which, with exceptions, vaccination is slow, CONMEBOL looked for an unexpected exit since it is not usual for the last host of the contest to have the option of organizing it for the second consecutive time.

Brazil is also the third country in the world most affected by the pandemic, behind the United States and India, with 16.5 million infections and more than 460,000 deaths. Only 11% of its population has received the two doses of the vaccine, according to the organization “Our World in Data”, which keeps the world statistics of inculation.

Last weekend there were massive demonstrations against President Jair Bolsonaro, who is facing an investigation for his handling of the health crisis.

“The Brazilian government demonstrated agility and decision-making capacity at a fundamental moment for South American football,” CONMEBOL president Alejandro Domínguez said in a statement. “Brazil is experiencing a moment of stability, it has proven infrastructure and recent accumulated experience to organize a competition of this magnitude.”

In Brazil, the current monarch of the continent, the first voices were raised against the event.

“We do not need more circus, we need more vaccines and a government,” claimed the renowned neuroscientist, Miguel Nicolelis, on Twitter. “Can anyone file a court order in the Supreme Court to stop another attack on the Brazilian people? The America’s Cup will take place when we reach 500,000 deaths from COVID”.

Dr. Denise Garrett of the Sabin Vaccination Institute, a nonprofit organization that advocates for better access to vaccines in Brazil, told The Associated Press that she is also opposed to the competition taking place in the country.

Among the questions raised by the choice of Brazil, logistics also appears, since several countries closed flights to and from that country because of the variants of coronavirus that developed there. In principle, the delegations would have no problems traveling, but it is not clear what will happen to the accredited press and others affected by the event.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen what the reaction of the clubs in Europe will be, which had already objected to giving up their players in March when CONMEBOL had to suspend the date of the tie due to the health situation in South America before the spread of the Manaus bypass.

Another setback is the vaccination of the national teams. Argentina and Peru, for example, have not yet been inoculated. The first because the Argentine authorities did not authorize the use of the Sinovac vaccines donated by CONMEBOL, while in Peru the selected one declined to have vaccination priority over the rest of the population.

This unexpected turn of CONMEBOL is the most recent episode of a rugged Copa América.

The South American entity had opted for a change of format with two venues for the first time in the history of the competition, as a way to encourage the circulation of fans from neighboring countries and fill the stadiums.

Two zones were defined according to geographical proximity, with the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires as the venue for the opening match and the Roberto Meléndez de Barranquilla for the final.

The pandemic that broke out in March 2020 was the first stumbling block, which forced the suspension of the event for 2021. Already in the new year, the guests Australia and Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, declined to participate.

Less than a month after its inception, the streets of several of the cities of Colombia became the epicenter of massive protests against the government of Iván Duque, who prior to the cancellation asked CONMEBOL to postpone the Copa América for the last months of this year, but in response his country was removed from the organization.

Argentina then remained the favorite to assume the total organization of the competition, but it was faced with an escalation of infections and a massive rejection of the population, which faces the economic consequences of the restrictions imposed by the government of Alberto Fernández.

This weekend, a group of parents demanding the total reopening of the schools mobilized in front of the Argentine national team’s premises in the town of Ezeiza to express their rejection of the Copa América dispute when “the classrooms are closed ”.

With opposition voices also questioning the event, the Argentine government assessed the political damage just as President Fernández faces his first electoral test with the legislative vote in November.

“Ultimately, what determined the decision was not only the protocols or adjusting the sanitary measures that are being taken in the Argentine territory, but the number of cases: with so many cases we could not carry out the organization of a championship of these characteristics ”Said the chief of the cabinet of ministers, Santiago Cafiero, on Monday at a press conference.

Argentina fell and when Chile’s shares grew to assume at least part of the competition, CONMEBOL offered the Copa América to Brazil.

According to the details provided by the South American soccer entity itself, Domínguez “contacted the president of the Brazilian Soccer Confederation, Rogério Caboclo, to evaluate the possibility of Brazil hosting all the matches”.

The Brazilian leader, in turn, conveyed the invitation to President Bolsonaro, who “supported the initiative immediately, with the endorsement of the Ministries of the Civil House, Health, Foreign Relations and the National Secretariat of Sports.”

It remains to define now the venues for the dispute of the two areas of the competition. In Group A are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In B Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

The best four from each zone qualify for the quarterfinals.

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