Argentina AXED as Copa America hosts just TWO WEEKS before the opening game amid rise in Covid-19 infection rate with organisers now scrambling for a replacement having already stripped Colombia due to ongoing political protests
- Argentina was axed as host of Copa America, throwing tournament into doubt
- Rise in Covid-19 infection rate saw country stripped with organisers scrambling
- Co-host Colombia has already been dropped due to ongoing political protests
The tournament, featuring 10 South American nations, had been due to be held in Argentina and Colombia between June 13 and July 10, the first time in its 105-year history with joint hosts.
However, Colombia was removed as co-host on May 20 after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country and Argentina has now followed due to what CONMEBOL said was the ‘present circumstances’.
The Copa America is without a host country just two weeks before the start of the tournament
CONMEBOL did not disclose the nature of the circumstances that led to the decision but Argentina is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
‘CONMEBOL is analysing offers from other countries that have shown interest in hosting the continental tournament,’ it said in a short statement. ‘Updates will be announced soon.’
Officials from the organisation will meet on Monday to decide on the next steps for the tournament, which was held over from 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sunday’s stunning decision was announced shortly before 11p.m. in Argentina at the end of a weekend in which opposition to the tournament grew both inside and outside the government.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina have been stripped as host country amid a rise in Covid-19 infections
Co-hosts Colombia had already been stripped amid ongoing political issues in the country
Argentina saw COVID-19 cases grow quickly in May and prompted the government to mandate a strict new lockdown.
Thursday saw a record one-day number of new cases and the overall death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
Even some players who had returned to South America to prepare for the tournament expressed doubts, with Luis Suarez of Uruguay telling reporters on Friday, ‘we have to give priority to the health of human beings’.
Gonzalo Belloso, CONMEBOL’s secretary general, said last week the organisation had spoken to Chilean officials with a view to perhaps hosting some matches there.
Organisers are now scrambling to find a host with the first game set to kick off in just 13 days
Organisers are reluctant to call the tournament off because of its importance financially. The last Copa America, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118million and was the second biggest annual source of revenue after the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.
This year each competing nation is to receive a minimum of $4m, with the winner receiving an additional $10m, CONMEBOL said.
CONMEBOL’s reputation has taken a battering in recent years, with the organisation forced to move the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores final to Madrid due to fan violence in Buenos Aires.