Copa America is one of the oldest tournaments in soccer history. This event only includes South American countries that participate in it. Only South American countries can host the tournament when it occurs. Columbia and Argentina were set to hold a joint tournament for the first time in history. These hopes lasted very shortly after Colmbia pulled out because of social and economic injustices and Argentina because of the big recent COVID-19 surges in the country.
More than 450,000 people have died in Brazil due to COVID-19. The country has reported the highest number of deaths and cases within the South American continent. Brazil’s president was all in favour of taking the opportunity to host the tournament while many are dying in the hospitals. On such short notice the tournament was moved from where it was initially supposed to be hosted and transferred over to Brazil.
The Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro took charge, saying he wanted to host the tournament and now many citizens are not happy and taking their opinions to the streets and to social media. Resources are being wasted on this tournament that won’t bring any benefit to the Brazilian citizens which have been one of the worst countries hit by the COVID-19 pandemic
South America has been one of the worst places hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Places like Brazil, Argentina and Peru all suffered dramatically. Peru’s total COVID-19 death toll was originally reported at 68,000, it is now at least three times more than that with 180,000 deaths in Peru. Brazilian citizens along with Renan Calherios, a Brazlian senator, are encouraging Brazlian soccer stars such as Neymar Jr. to say I won’t walk onto the pitch to play.
Juca Kfouri, Brazil’s top sports analyst, called the competition “the grave of the Americas.”
“There is no justification for bringing nine South American teams, and potentially new variants, to one of the epicentres of the pandemic, wasting resources and attention that should be directed towards our thousands of infected patients,” Kfouri said.
Luis Roberto, a very popular Brazilian commentator, wasn’t very happy hearing that Brazil took on the responsibility of hosting the tournament. “This is shameful,” he said. “It’s a provocation. It is a slap in the face of all Brazilians.”
CONMEBOL, South America’s governing soccer body, should have either moved the tournament to next year or just canceled it entirely. Last summer, the Euro 2020 tournament, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, was supposed to be played and hosted all over Europe. Then the pandemic hit. Europe went into lockdown and the tournament was postponed until 2021.
The European championship is the second biggest tournament for the soccer world behind the World Cup. If the Euro could get postponed, surely Copa America could too.
Another possible idea would have been to create a sealed off environment where COVID-19 infection among players would be minimised, similar to what the NBA did with its “bubble.”
While limiting fans or completely disallowing fans would certainly kill the mood and significantly dampen the experience, it could save lives, and therefore should also be considered as a reasonable response to this unique situation.
This is just a quick money grab from the government and the corrupt politicians that hold power in Brazil.
And history is repeating itself.
When Brazil won the rights to host the 2014 World Cup, citizens were against it. Instead of spending the US$15 billion on stadiums and renovations, they could have spent it on bettering the economy and growth of the country. The money could have been used to build more schools and keep Brazilian kids away from gang violence. Fast forward 7 years: the majority of the stadiums are abandoned and useless. Once again Brazil sold out their people for international attractions and a brief stint in the spotlight.
Again, for the 2016 Rio Olympics, swimming pools constructed for the occasion are abandoned, with no maintenance and the water has turned green.
Now for the summer of 2021, Brazil is getting ready to host a tournament. But in the context of the pandemic raging there, and the Brazilia government’s denial of it, the situation is much worse.
President Jair Bolsonaro has called COVID-19 “just a little flu” and claimed that the media are hyping it and trying to cause panic around the globe.
Rather than the situation seriously, Bolsonaro is willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of his people and the growth of his country for a brief moment of vapid recognition, only to then deal with the problems that he has willingly neglected.
Cover Image uncredited from:The Sports Integrity iniatiative