Football: Copa America games moved from Colombia after civil unrest

Reuters
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: May 21, 2021, 01:06 PM(IST)

Colombian Football Federation Photograph:( Reuters )

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The 2021 Copa America will no longer feature games in co-host Colombia after the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) decided on Thursday (May 20) to move games away from the country after a wave of civil unrest there.

The 2021 Copa America will no longer feature games in co-host Colombia after the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) decided on Thursday (May 20) to move games away from the country after a wave of civil unrest there.

The 2021 tournament was due to be held jointly by Colombia and Argentina.

It was the first time in its 105-year history that a co-hosting model had been chosen but it appears weeks of protest in Colombia led to Thursday's decision.

The tournament features all 10 South American nations and was due to kick off in Buenos Aires on June 13 and culminate with the final in the Colombian city of Barranquilla on July 11.

"CONMEBOL guarantees the realization of the 2021 Copa America and in the coming days will inform on the relocation of those games that were to be held in Colombia," the organization said in a statement.

CONMEBOL rejected an appeal from Colombia to move the tournament to the end of the year.

Argentina earlier this week offered to host the whole tournament amid weeks of anti-government protests in Colombia which have killed at least 15 people.

Fifteen games had been scheduled for Colombia and 13 games are scheduled for Argentina.

Tear gas fired outside some Colombian stadiums during recent matches led to discomfort for players and condemnation from coaches and officials. CONMEBOL already transferred some games out of Colombia to Paraguay and Ecuador.

The protests that began in late April, originally against a now canceled tax plan, have led to food and gasoline shortages and stymied exports, the government said. Protest demands have expanded to include calls for a basic income, an end to police violence, and more opportunities for young people.

Blockades are still affecting roads in 17 of Colombia's 32 provinces and unions have called for more big protests on May 26 and 28.

This year's Copa America was originally scheduled for 2020 but was held over because of the spread of COVID-19.

The decision to strip Colombia of its games is a crushing blow to a nation that suffered a similar reverse in the 1980s when it was forced to give up the right to host the 1986 World Cup finals, which were moved to Mexico.

And in 2001, the last time Colombia hosted the Copa America, CONMEBOL was so worried about security there they canceled the tournament only to change their minds a few days later.

However, Argentina and invited guests Canada withdrew, citing their own concerns over security.

South America has been hit hard by the pandemic, with more than 444,000 people dying in Brazil, and new surges causing consternation in Argentina and Uruguay, amongst other places.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Thursday announced a strict lockdown beginning on Saturday and lasting until at least May 31.

The move includes a ban on all sporting, religious and social events, in addition to closing schools and non-essential commerce.

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