RIO DE JANEIRO BRAZIL – South American soccer’s governing body said on Wednesday it has asked Argentina to host the entire 2021 Copa America tournament after it removed Colombia as co-host last week because of ongoing civil unrest.
The June 13 to July 10 tournament, delayed a year by the Covid-19 pandemic, had been due to be jointly hosted for the first time its 105-year history, with matches split between Colombia and Argentina.
The South American Confederation (CONMEBOL) had previously decided to move games in continental club competitions out of Colombia due to the protests, while those that went ahead saw players affected by tear gas fired outside stadiums.
CONMEBOL confirmed late on Wednesday it had approached Argentina about hosting all 28 games of the Copa America, which involves 10 South American nations, and that it was awaiting the green light from public health officials there.
“The Argentine government presented CONMEBOL with a strict protocol for the Copa America 2021 to be held in the country,” CONMEBOL said in a statement after a meeting between Argentina President Alberto Fernandez and CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez.
It added that the proposal, “will remain under the rigorous study” of officials from Argentina’s Health Ministry.
Earlier on Wednesday a top Argentine government official confirmed the offer and said they were looking at the logistics of the proposal, particularly the venues for the matches.
“There is an offer to hold the complete (tournament) in Argentina, but first we have to resolve the part we’ve already committed to,” Santiago Cafiero, the cabinet chief in Argentina’s government, told Radio La Red.
“The debate and the task that we have now is to discuss the venues,” he added. “We have nothing against it from a health point of view but we do have to take all precautions. That’s what we are working on.”
CONMEBOL officials visited two stadiums this week, belongiing to Estudiantes de La Plata (La Plata) and Velez Sarsfield (Buenos Aires), to gauge their readiness, a source told Reuters.
The proposal comes as Argentina battles to contain a surge in novel coronavirus infections.
The death toll in Argentina has reached 75,588, according to official data, and the country has been under a strict lockdown since Saturday, with all sport, religious and social gatherings banned and non-essential businesses closed.
Neighboring Uruguay is also experiencing a surge while Brazil has seen 450,000 deaths from the virus, more than any country except the United States.
CONMEBOL is still determined, however, that the Copa America, the oldest international tournament in the world, must take place.