The South American football federation, CONMEBOL, said on Monday it would move Copa America to Brazil, thanking Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his intervention after original hosts Argentina gave up due to rising COVID-19 cases.
The surprise decision, which moves the competition from one hot spot in the South American coronavirus to another, means that the world’s oldest international tournament will begin as planned on June 13, with the finals on July 10. It is an inspiration to former right-wing army captain Bolsonaro, who spoke out against the blockade and urged Brazilians to return to normal life.
“2021 Copa America to be played in Brazil!” CONMEBOL said in a statement. “The start and end dates have been confirmed. Host cities and matches will be revealed by CONMEBOL in the next few hours.”
In a separate tweet, CONMEBOL thanked the President of Brazil for the help, who in the long run reduced the severity of the virus. “CONMEBOL thanks President @jairbolsonaro and his team as well as the Brazilian Football Confederation for opening the doors to what is now the safest sporting event in the world”. The President’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Over 4,50,000 people have died in Brazil due to COVID-19. The country has regularly reported the highest number of cases and deaths on the continent and is currently ranked second in the world for both daily and death. There was a big protest against Bolsonaro on Saturday in Brazil.
Omar Aziz, one of the senators who conducted a high-quality congressional investigation over Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic, said he did not see any major problems with Brazil hosting the tournament as long as there were no crowds and the right security measures have been seen
But many others in Brazil, where football is a national obsession, are angered by the decision. Guga Chacra, a prominent journalist, posted on Twitter: “The authorities are acting as if Brazil had advanced vaccinations like the US. It will be difficult to please the national team.”