Soccer

Copa América in doubt with 13 days to kick-off after Argentina removed as host


The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) has said Argentina will no longer host the Copa América, throwing the troubled tournament into doubt 13 days before it is due to kick off.

The tournament, featuring 10 South American nations, had been due to be held in Argentina and Colombia between 13 June and 10 July, the first time in its 105-year history with joint hosts. Colombia was removed as a co-host on 20 May after a wave of protests demanding social and economic change spread across the country and Argentina has followed because of what Conmebol said was the “present circumstances”.

It did not disclose the nature of the circumstances but Argentina is 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 because of the pandemic.

The stunning decision was announced shortly before 11 pm in Argentina at the end of a weekend in which opposition to the tournament grew inside and outside the government.

Covid-19 cases grew quickly in Argentina in May and prompted the government to mandate a strict new lockdown. There were a record one-day number of new cases in Argentina on Thursday and the death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Even some players who had returned to South America to prepare for the tournament expressed doubts, with Uruguay’s Luis Suárez 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 reluctant to call the tournament off because of its importance financially. The last Copa América, held in Brazil in 2019, brought in $118m 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 (£2.8m), with the winners receiving an additional $10m, Conmebol said.



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