Argentina will no longer host the Copa America tournament, the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) disclosed on Sunday. This latest development has put the competition in doubt with just 13 days left till the date it was set to kick off.
The competition which features 10 South American countries was due to be held in Argentina and Colombia between June 13 and July 10, and this was the first time it was being co=hosted by two nations in its 105-year history.
However, Colombia was removed as co-host on May 20 due to persistent protests with demands for social and economic change across the country. Argentina have now joined due to what the body described as present circumstances.
CONMEBOL didn’t reveal the nature of the circumstances that forced the decision although Argentina is currently 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.”
Meanwhile, the organization’s officials will meet on Monday to decide on the next steps for the tournament which was supposed to hold in 2020 but didn’t due to the pandemic.
The shocking decision was announced shortly before 11 pm in Argentina at the end of the weekend as the tournament was opposed from within and outside the government. It can be recalled that COVID cases in Argentina grew in May and forced the government to mandate a strict lockdown.
On Thursday, there was a record one-day number of new cases and the overall death toll reached 76,793 by the weekend based on data from the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, some players who returned to South America in preparation for the tournament voiced their doubts. One notable player was Uruguay’s Luis Suarez who pointed out to reporters on Friday that; “we have to give priority to the health of human beings”.
Regardless, the organizers of the tournament are reluctant to call it off because of its financial importance. The Copa America which was held in Brazil in 2019 brought in $118m and this was the second biggest annual source of revenue after the Copa Libertadores.