Belo Horizonte, Brazil – Brasilia’s underutilized Mane Garrincha Stadium is located near the office of Brazilian President Bolsonaro, which is appropriate.
In a little over a week, this huge arena will host the first match of the most controversial and politicized Copa America in the history of arguably the oldest international football tournament in the world.
No matter how stubborn Bolsonaro is, it remains to be seen whether this will happen.
Until the end of last month, this one-month tournament consisting of 10 teams will be co-hosted by two countries for the first time: Colombia and Argentina.
Due to civil unrest, the former plan was cancelled on May 20.Ten days later, as the number of COVID cases in Argentina increased by 54%, the country Exchanged its custody rights The unpopular title ranked fifth in the world due to the per capita coronavirus outbreak.
Within 24 hours, Brazil, ravaged by COVID, was unveiled as an emergency solution.
Alejandro Dominguez, chairman of the South American football governing body CONMEBOL, wrote on Twitter: “A tournament that will shake the entire continent is coming.” He was not wrong.
The right choice for Brazil?
The reality is very similar to COVID-19: Due to political turmoil and the coronavirus, this 105-year-old tournament moved from Colombia and Argentina to a politically divided country, which had the second largest number of deaths in 2019. The world has no end.
As of June 5, Brazil has reported nearly 17 million coronavirus cases, ranking third in the world, with more than 470,000 deaths, second only to the United States.
Only 10% of the population was fully vaccinated, and the day after Brazil was confirmed as the host country, it recorded 94,509 new cases, the second highest number ever recorded in the country.
The decision to host the competition aroused criticism throughout South America. Football players, politicians, health experts, lawyers and fans have all expressed doubts about hosting a game in a country that has been struggling to control the virus.
The Brazilian Football Association has not issued a statement, nor has it responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment. But the Brazilian national team opposes the idea of holding a game in the country.
On Friday, after the team’s victory over Ecuador, captain Casemiro said that given the COVID situation in the country, the players did not want to participate in the game.
“We can’t talk about this [but] Everyone knows our position on the Copa America,” Casemiro said. “It couldn’t be clearer. We want to express our opinion after the game against Paraguay. “
Well-known stars such as Argentina’s Sergio Aguero and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez have also expressed concern, while the Chilean national team is also considering boycotting coach Martin La Salte, saying that playing in Brazil is “a huge risk.” “.
Soon after Dominguez’s tweet was released, memes that mimic mascots and logos featuring coffins and viral molecules circulated online.
The Brazilian renamed the championships Cepa America and Cova America using the Portuguese words “variant” and “grave site”.
Dr. Jamal Suleiman, an infectious disease expert at the São Paulo Emilio Ribas Hospital, said: “Every day, more than 2,000 people in Brazil die from this virus, but this has been happening for a long time and is now considered to be It’s totally natural.” told Al Jazeera.
“It never ends. It’s like 10 large passenger planes crashing every day for months. No other country in the world is like this.”
Of the 15 countries with the highest incidence of COVID cases in 7 days, South America accounts for more than half.
The head coach of the Brazilian national football team, Tite, refused to confirm whether they would participate in this year’s Copa America because the top players said they would not participate because the idea of hosting a sporting event when thousands of people are still dying every day is a stupid idea from Covid 19 . pic.twitter.com/GBOGI0EwH4
— BrianMier (@BrianMteleSUR) June 5, 2021
However, since it has sold TV broadcasting rights worth US$100 million, CONMEBOL refused to postpone its show competition for the second year in a row.
With no fans in the stadium, Brazil will kick off against Venezuela on June 13, after which other matches will be held in Cuiaba, Goiania and Rio de Janeiro.
A study by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo found that each of the four host cities has less than 20% of ICU beds.
Suleiman added: “Holding the America’s Cup conveys the message that the pandemic is under control.”
“This cannot be underestimated. This is exactly what Bolsonaro has been trying to do since the beginning, telling us that this is just a’gripezinha’ [small cold] And “sissy stuff” [thing for sissies]. Football is not a place related to sissy, it is regarded as a manly sport. Therefore, the information conveyed by the event may significantly worsen the public health situation. “
In the absence of COVID, an emergency decision may seem logical.
In the past seven years, Brazil has hosted the Football World Cup, the Olympic Games, the Under-17 World Cup and the 2019 Copa America. There is no doubt that the country has the best infrastructure for hosting major sporting events in the region.
Lucas Assis, a 21-year-old student from Rio de Janeiro, said: “I am opposed to hosting the America’s Cup this year because it is losing its reputation, but if we want to host it, Brazil is a good choice.” Hot Janeiro.
“Our domestic league is running. Other teams from South America played the Libertadores here last week, so I don’t see any difference. The mainstream media is totally opposed to the Copa America, but they have no problem broadcasting domestic football. So it feels hypocritical and political. For me, all this anger has more to do with television copyright than people’s death.”
Can the vaccine save the game?
CONMEBOL argued that with the 50,000 vaccines provided by the Chinese manufacturer Kexing, it can vaccinate all team delegations before the start of the competition.
However, time is not on the side of the organizers. It is recommended to take three weeks between the two doses. Suleiman called this logic “completely flawed” and pointed to the danger to unprotected workers on the periphery, such as caddies, bus drivers and hotel employees.
“This is crazy,” said Monica Sapucaia Machado, a professor at the Brazilian School of Public Law in Brasilia. “They said they would vaccinate tour groups, but what about the people who work in airports, hotels, restaurants? Do we want the players to stay in their hotels for a month? It’s ridiculous.
Last week, David Neres of Ajax and Robert Abolida of São Paulo were arrested at a secret party attended by more than 100 people. This kind of secret incident is a common theme in Brazil, and the governor of each state has set its own rules.
“The pandemic here is completely out of control,” Suleiman said. “Public hospitals are overcrowded, private hospitals are overcrowded, and everyone is doing their best. The medicines for intubated patients in Sao Paulo will be used up by next week at the latest, and no replenishment is expected. This is not a comfortable situation.
“Football is a great sport, an emotional sport, but this country does not currently need the Copa America. What this country needs is a vaccine.”
Less than a week after tens of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of 200 cities in Brazil, calling for Bolsonaro to be impeached, the controversial decision was made.
The president often downplays the severity of the coronavirus, opposes the lockdown, and questioned the effectiveness of vaccination.
On Wednesday night, Bolsonaro confirmed that the match will be held in Brazil and said that it will follow the same rules as the Copa Libertadores and World Cup qualifiers.
However, opposition politicians have Approaching the Supreme Court The game was suspended for public health reasons.
Brazilian Socialist Party leader Carlos Siqueira called it a “death plan,” while Senator Renan Carreiros urged Brazilian star Neymar Jr. to make it clear. Lawsuits have been filed in many states across the country.
Professor Machado told Al Jazeera that at a time when he and his government’s management of the pandemic received a lot of criticism during the parliamentary investigation, Bolsonaro’s decision to give the green light for the game may be a “diversion”. Strategy” and “a means of distracting attention.”
She added that some legal actions may produce results, and she believes that they are unlikely to be sufficient to force a suspension.
“The problem we have in Brazil right now is that we can’t control it,” Machado said. “Legal and technical opinions, these things that have been studied for generations and are based on evidence, have not been used to make important decisions. I know football is a very important business for Brazil, but from any angle Looking at it, even from an economic point of view, I don’t think this is a wise move.
“Please forgive this expression, but what is the goal here?”