Argentina President Alberto Fernandez on Thursday cast doubt over the upcoming Copa America the country is due to co-host with Colombia, insisting that the evolution of the coronavirus pandemic must be taken into consideration.
Argentina are due to host the opening match of the South American tournament on June 13. “I don’t want to frustrate the Copa America spectacle but I want us to be very sensible, very careful,” Fernandez told Radio 10. “We still have time to see how things evolve and to see how we can dominate these problems.”
The Copa was meant to take place last year but was postponed by 12 months due to the pandemic. Since then, guest participants Australia and Qatar have pulled out leaving just the 10 members of South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL to take part. The final will be played in Colombia on July 10. It’s the first time in the tournament’s 105-year history that there are two host countries.
On Tuesday, CONMEBOL revealed that the Chinese Sinovac company would donate 50,000 doses of its CoronaVac vaccine to be given to top level footballers ahead of the Copa America. Fernandez also said he was “worried” about Argentine clubs taking part in the continental Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana competitions.
Coronavirus cases are soaring throughout South America, even in countries such as Uruguay, which was previously held up as a model for managing the pandemic, and Chile, which has been lauded for the pace of its vaccination program.
“All this worries me because I see objectively what’s happening with Argentine teams. The cases are repeating and they’ve not even left the country,” said Fernandez. Several Argentine Primera Division teams, including Boca Juniors, Independiente and Racing Club, have recorded coronavirus outbreaks amongst players and staff. “Without leaving Argentina, the teams have high infection levels. Leaving Argentina would make it worse,” said Fernandez.
Argentina as a country has registered daily infection records several times this week. On Wednesday it recorded more than 25,000 cases and 368 deaths, taking its totals during the pandemic to 2.6 million infections and 58,500 fatalities. “I know that for many Argentines, football is a moment of joy and passion, but we have to be very careful,” said Fernandez, a fan of Argentinos Juniors.
Despite the increase in cases throughout the continent, spurred by a highly infectious coronavirus variant from Brazil, Peru announced on Thursday that it would allow Brazilian teams to enter its territory for Libertadores and Sudamericana matches.