Copa América set to begin under cloud of opposition and COVID-19 concerns

Copa América set to begin under cloud of opposition and COVID-19 concerns
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12 June 2021
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The rearranged Copa América is set to get underway in Brazil amid public opposition to the country stepping in to host the event at the last minute and COVID-19 concerns.

Brazil, only cleared to stage the tournament after receiving approval from the country’s Supreme Federal Court yesterday, is due to kickoff the competition against Venezuela in Group B tomorrow.

The event has already been dominated by off-field issues as it had been due to take place in Argentina and Colombia before being moved to Brazil, despite the nation being among the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the world.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) last month pulled the plug on Argentina, where there have been more than four million cases of coronavirus and over 84,000 deaths.

CONMEBOL had earlier stripped Colombia of co-hosting rights because of violent anti-Government protests.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, gave his blessing to staging the Copa América after the Brazilian Football Association offered itself as host.

Critics of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro are among those to have expressed opposition to Brazil staging the tournament ©Getty Images

Critics of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro are among those to have expressed opposition to Brazil staging the tournament ©Getty Images

Brazil's hosting of the delayed tournament, initially scheduled to take place in 2020 before being pushed back a year due to the pandemic, has raised eyebrows and sparked widespread criticism.

The country has recorded more than 484,000 deaths from COVID-19 and there are fears another wave could plunge the nation into further crisis.

A poll conducted by XP/Ipespe poll found 64 per cent of respondents are against Brazil hosting the 10-team competition, with less than a third - 29 per cent - in favour.

The number opposed to the event going ahead in Brazil rises to 83 per cent among critics of Bolsonaro.

Teams will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing every 48 hours.

Their movements will be restricted, and they will travel to matches in the four host cities - capital Brasília, Cuiabá, Goiânia and Rio de Janeiro - on chartered flights.

Fans will not be allowed to attend games.

Brazil will take to the pitch for the opening match in Brasília after their players confirmed this week that they would not boycott the event, although they expressed opposition to their nation staging it.

Qatar and Australia had been due to take part as invitational teams before pulling out because of COVID-19 related issues.

Eight of the 10 teams will progress from the two-week group stage.

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