Copa América soccer tournament will be played in Brazil instead of Argentina

By Jennifer Jett and Andrés R. Martínez

The Copa América, South America’s largest soccer tournament, will be played in Brazil instead of Argentina, which is suffering its worst outbreak of the pandemic, organizers said Monday.

The start and end dates of the tournament have been confirmed, CONMEBOL, the South American soccer federation, said on its Twitter account. The dates for the individual games and the specific stadiums to be used were to be announced later Monday, the statement said.

The Argentine government and public have been torn over the wisdom of hosting the monthlong tournament, in a discussion that mirrors the one taking place in Japan over holding the Tokyo Olympics this summer. On Friday, officials in Japan, which is recording more than 4,000 cases a day amid a fourth wave of infections, extended a state of emergency in Tokyo and eight other prefectures until at least June 20, just over a month before the opening ceremony.

Last week, President Alberto Fernández of Argentina announced stringent lockdown measures until the end of the month, calling this his country’s “worst moment in the pandemic.” Argentina now ranks third in the world, after neighboring Paraguay and Uruguay, in the number of deaths per capita over the past week, according to a New York Times database. The country of 45 million is reporting an average of more than 30,000 new cases a day, compared with 20,000 in the United States.

Fernández also met last week with Alejandro Domínguez, the head of CONMEBOL, and presented a “strict protocol” for holding the tournament if the soccer federation wanted it to go ahead in Argentina as planned.

The 2020 edition of the Copa América was postponed by a year last spring after the start of the pandemic. In soccer-crazed Argentina, which last hosted the event in 2011, it was seen as a joyous occasion to host some of the sport’s biggest stars, including the country’s own Lionel Messi. But calls to move the tournament, which ordinarily takes place every four years, somewhere other than Argentina have mounted in recent weeks, with opponents on Twitter using the hashtag #NoALaCopaAmericaEnArgentina, and #NoToTheCopaAmericaInArgentina.

In May, CONMEBOL removed Colombia as a co-host of the tournament after rejecting the country’s request to postpone it amid continuing civil unrest and anti-government protests in which dozens of people have died.

That left CONMEBOL to consider holding the entire championship in Argentina, amid rumors that there could be a last-minute agreement to include another host, like Chile, a vaccination success story in South America that has fully inoculated more than 40% of its population.

Vaccinations in many other parts of the region have been lagging, prompting some wealthy and middle-class Latin Americans to seek them in the United States instead.

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