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SPORTS | 27-05-2021 16:59

Argentina pushes CONMEBOL for guarantees ahead of Copa América

"We need to know if CONMEBOL is able to comply with the requirement that we're putting in place," says Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero as doubts over tournament grow.

Argentina was waiting on Thursday to hear back from South American football's governing body to see if CONMEBOL will be able to follow strict coronavirus health protocols during the Copa América.

"We need to know if CONMEBOL is able to comply with the requirement that we're putting in place," Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero told Radio10.

The government submitted its "strict protocol" to CONMEBOL on Wednesday during a meeting between President Alberto Fernández and the football governing body's head Alejandro Domínguez.

Argentina is going through its worst period during the 15-month long pandemic with daily cases at 30,000 and deaths at 500. It is in the middle of a nine-day lockdown.

The country offered to host the entire Copa América after CONMEBOL last week stripped Colombia of co-hosting rights after it asked to have the tournament delayed until the end of the year as it struggles with the pandemic and social unrest.

Following that decision, CONMEBOL said "the organisational and logistical aspects were evaluated – with the eventual authorisation of additional sites – and everything concerning the health protocols."

One of Argentina's demands is a reduction in the size of each team's delegation.

CONMEBOL's 10 member federations will take part in the Copa América, due to kick-off in Buenos Aires on June 13, with the final on July 10 at a location yet to be decided since it was going to be in Colombia.

"I understand that they have to talk to all the delegations to see if they can comply with the protocols Argentina is demanding," said Cafiero.

Shortly before that, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti insisted that welcoming 1,000 to 1,200 people from all over the continent with strict health protocols would not be "epidemiologically very relevant."

In recent days, CONMEBOL has been inspecting stadiums to see if they could host the 15 matches originally scheduled for Colombia.

Messi eager

European-based players, such as Argentine superstar Lionel Messi have already returned home ahead of World Cup qualifiers just before the Copa begins.

Messi is hoping to help Argentina overcome a trophy drought that stretches back to 1993, when they last won the Copa.

It will be "a special Copa, a different one because there won't be fans," he said recently.

But, he added, "I really want to be there again."

The pandemic has been acutely felt in football.

Argentina's League Cup semi-finals, due to be played last weekend, were postponed until May 31 but earlier this week the government made an exception to allow its teams to take part in Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana matches.

Last week, River Plate were forced to play a Copa Libertadores match against Colombians Independiente Santa Fe with midfielder Enzo Pérez in goal after the virus infected 20 players, including all four goalkeepers. Despite only having 11 fit players, the Buenos Aires giants still won the match 2-1.

Argentina has recorded more than 75,000 deaths from Covid-19 and 3.6 million cases among its 45 million population.

– AFP

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