(CNN) – The surprise decision to grant Brazil the organizing rights to the Copa América, South America’s largest international soccer tournament, just 12 days before the start date is drawing widespread criticism.
Brazil has suffered more than 465,000 deaths from covid-19 – the second highest number of deaths in the world – and there is currently an ongoing investigation into the handling of the pandemic by President Jair Bolsonaro.
The rapporteur of that investigation, the senator of Brazil Renan Calheiros, referred to the Copa América on Tuesday as the “Championship of Death” and asked the star of the Brazilian team Neymar not to participate in the tournament.
“Neymar, do not go out to the field in this Copa América, while your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances continue to die and the vaccine does not reach our country”, Calheiros told Radio Eldorado.
“This is not the championship in which we have to compete. We have to compete in the vaccination championship. It is in this championship where you have to score goals so that our score changes.
«In this score [vacunación], we are in the last places. In the Championship of death, we are in second place, with the second highest number of deaths in the world, “he added. «The Brazilian team cannot agree with this. Intensive care units and cemeteries are full. Under what conditions are we going to celebrate a goal for Brazil? ».
According to World Health Organization, 60 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Brazil.
The 2020 edition of the Copa América was postponed one year due to the coronavirus pandemic and was scheduled to be held in both Argentina and Colombia between June 13 and July 10, the first time in the history of the tournament that it was to be organized jointly.
However, Colombia was stripped of its responsibilities as a co-organizer on May 20 following nationwide protests prompted by a controversial tax reform introduced by President Iván Duque, before Argentina followed on May 31.
The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) did not specify the reason why Argentina ceased to host, but the country is currently suffering an increase in coronavirus cases, with an average of seven days of more than 30,000 new daily cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Bolsonaro announced that the Copa América will be organized in the Federal District of Brazil and in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grosso and Goiás and said that the four state governors had agreed to host the tournament.
FIFPro, the world soccer players’ union, says it has “serious concerns” about moving the Copa América with so little preparation time and will support players who decide it is not safe to compete.
“The most recent plan to organize, with very little notice, that hundreds of footballers compete in a tournament of such complexity leaves uncertainty open for each and every one of them, and for their families,” FIFPro said in a statement. .
“As in previous national team competitions during the covid-19 emergency period, players must be able to prioritize their own health and that of their families without the risk of sanctions.”
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca, who guided the team to the final in 2019, where they lost to host Brazil, said it seems unfair from a sporting point of view for a country to host consecutive tournaments.
“I think all of South America has problems,” he told reporters at Peru’s pre-match press conference. “I don’t think there is a country in South America that does not have problems with the pandemic.
“I don’t think the America’s Cup will take place in the country where it was played previously, not so much because of the pandemic. The pandemic is everywhere.
Chile, along with Ecuador and the United States, was one of the countries that were considering to host the Copa América after Argentina was stripped of the responsibility of organizing it.
The Chilean team won consecutive Copa América titles in 2015 and 2016, but the decision to go ahead with the tournament has not been supported in many areas of the country.
Matías Walker, a deputy from Chile’s fifth district, said the country should consider not sending any teams.
«The Chilean Football Federation, the ANFP, has to seriously evaluate whether or not it exposes the national teams, the officials, the workers and the managers themselves to travel to a long tournament in a country like Brazil, which at this moment it is the epicenter of infections and deaths on the continent, “he said.
“And that it has been an example of government irresponsibility through the Bolsonaro government, where new variants appear every week.”