Thursday, April 18, 2024

SPORTS | 06-06-2021 16:45

AFA confirms Albiceleste will participate in Copa América

"With an enormous effort from the AFA ... the National Team will travel to Brazil to play the continental competition," declares Argentine Football Association.

The Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed Sunday that the Albiceleste will play travel to Brazil to compete in the Copa América.

Argentina was originally due to host the continental showpiece alongside Colombia but a week ago South American football's governing body CONMEBOL moved the tournament to Brazil.

Argentina "confirms [its] participation in the Copa América, as is reflected by its sportsmanship throughout history," local football's governing body said in a statement, adding that it would take steps to guarantee players safety.

AFA released the statement following rumours that both Argentina and Brazil were going to withdraw from the competition due to the dire coronavirus situation in the region. In Brazil alone, more than 470,000 people have died of Covid-19 with 17 million infected out of a population of 212 million. Argentina has suffered four million infections, with 80,000 fatalities.

"With an enormous effort from the AFA ... the National Team will travel to Brazil to play the continental competition," said the entity that manages Argentina's club sides and national teams.

AFA said it would provide all the "necessary tools to guarantee the specific care" needed to meet health protocols during the competition.

Several players and coaches due to take part in the Copa have questioned whether it should go ahead.

On Wednesday, Albiceleste coach Lionel Scaloni said "it's alarming and worrying. Brazil is not the best place."

Chile's Uruguayan coach Martín Lasarte described the decision to play the tournament in Brazil as "a huge, giant risk."

AFA also said Sunday that the Albiceleste would be based at their Ezeiza training camp on the outskirts of Buenos Aires Province for the entire tournament, travelling to Brazil for games when necessary.

The Copa América was moved to Brazil last week. Argentina was to have co-hosted the June 13-July 10 football spectacle, initially co-hosting with Colombia, which was itself disqualified by football federation CONMEBOL over violent social unrest.

With two weeks to kick-off, the federation tweeted last Monday that "The CONMEBOL Copa América 2021 will be played in Brazil!" a day after it cancelled Argentina's hosting of the event "in view of the current circumstances." 

AFA said that "all the Albiceleste's staff "would work together to overcome this adversity that, unfortunately, affects all South Americans equally." 

Brazil, which has the second-most Covid-19 deaths and third-most cases in the world, is clearly not a risk-free setting to host the region's premier international tournament.

Brazil's local football leagues kicked off its new season recently without fans in the stands, and the country has few if any limitations to enter the country beyond a negative PCR test. Restrictions are imposed on a local level with the federal government largely advocating for a return to normality despite the sky-high infection and death rates.

President Jair Bolsonaro, in contrast to his counterpart Alberto Fernández in Argentina, has criticised Covid-19 lockdowns implemented by cities and states and Bolsonaro routinely wades into crowds without masks.

The Copa América was originally due to take place last year, but was postponed for 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic. It begins on Sunday with new hosts Brazil taking on Venezuela in Brasilia. Argentina's first match against Chile will be the next day in Rio de Janeiro.



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