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SPORTS | 21-05-2021 12:28

AFA suspends all football in Argentina with Copa América looming

AFA suspended all professional football tournaments as new coronavirus lockdown is imposed, just over three weeks before hosting the Copa América.

Argentina's football association (AFA) on Friday suspended all professional tournaments as a new coronavirus lockdown was imposed on the country, just over three weeks before hosting the Copa América.

The news comes one day after South American football's governing body CONMEBOL stripped Colombia of co-hosting rights, after the country asked to have the competition postponed until the end of the year.

Colombia officially said it was due to the there being little chance of fans attending but the country has been gripped by weeks of social unrest that has left at least 42 people dead, and is also struggling with a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

"In order to accompany the health measures announced by President Alberto Fernández to combat the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that we're going through, AFA has decided to suspend the scheduling of matches in all competitions ... from 8pm today until Sunday May 30, 2021 inclusive," said AFA in a statement.

President Fernández announced on Thursday a nine-day lockdown to begin on Saturday, adding that Argentina was "going through the worst moment in the pandemic" with a daily average over the last week of 27,000 cases and 500 deaths.

The government has also shut down businesses and commercial activity until June 6 in the country of 45 million.

Earlier this week, Fernández had said Argentina would be prepared to host the Copa América by itself should Colombia pull out.

The lockdown will end just before the Albiceleste are due to play two World Cup qualifiers at home to Chile on June 3 and away to Colombia five days later.

The lockdown means the semi-finals and finals of the Copa de Liga Profesional, scheduled for the next two weekends, will have to be played at a later date. The winners qualify for next season's Copa Libertadores.

 

Colombia and CONMEBOL

CONMEBOL, in disarray after rejecting the Colombian plea to postpone the June 13-July 10 Copa América, will now now decide where to put on matches with barely three weeks to go until the tournament's kick off.

The Colombian government had fought desperately to keep its matches, arguing that delaying the tournament until the end of the year would have allowed spectators to be present in stadiums in Colombia and Argentina, where they are currently banned due to Covid-19.

November was pitched as an option, but he appeal fell on deaf ears with CONMEBOL citing "reasons relating to the international calendar and logistics of the tournament".

The tournament, like the European Championships, was due to take place last year but was postponed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two guest nations, Australia and Qatar, pulled out of the tournament in February due to a clash with World Cup qualifying dates.

Brazil are defending Copa América champions from when the tournament was last held in 2019.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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