‘Championship of DEATH’: Neymar urged to lead Copa America boycott as critics speak out on Covid-hit Brazil’s hosting of showpiece
The shock decision to award the tournament to South America's largest country came on Monday and has been met with widespread opposition there.
Stripping Colombia and Argentina of their co-host duties due to social unrest and Covid respectively, football authorities CONMEBOL moved their showpiece international competition to Brazil despite it suffering from both those issues simultaneously.
Losing over 465,000 of their countrymen to the disease, similar numbers took to the streets of the country's largest metropolises last weekend to protest against President Jair Bolsonaro's mishandling of the pandemic.
BREAKING: The Copa America has been moved out of Argentina to Brazil 13 days before it is due to start over COVID-19 concerns 👀 pic.twitter.com/dzW7FqZUDC— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 31, 2021
While governors in some states pulled out of providing their capitals as host cities, it seems the Copa America will go ahead in Brazil for the second edition running.
In 2019, the Selecao beat Peru 3-1 in the final at the iconic Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
And while Neymar missed the chance to lift the country's first major silverware in 12 years through injury, he is set to feature this time but has been warned against participating by a senator.
Renan Calheiros referred to the Copa as the "Championship of death" on Tuesday, and said "Neymar, do not take the field in this Copa America, while your friends, your relatives, your acquaintances continue to die and the vaccine does not reach our country" to Radio Eldorado.
"This is not the championship we need to compete in. We have to compete in the vaccination championship. It is in this championship that you need to score goals, so that our score is changed."
Neymar leaving to Porto Alegre for the World Cup Qualifiers match against Ecuador. pic.twitter.com/oWw6hgD6Ih— 𝗡𝗲𝘆𝗺𝗮𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀 (@Neymoleque) June 2, 2021
"On this score [vaccination], we are in the last [few] places. In the 'death championship,' we are in second place, with the second highest number of deaths in the world."
"The Brazil national team cannot agree with this. ICUs and cemeteries are full. Under what conditions are we going to celebrate a goal for Brazil?," he asked.
Worldwide player union FIFPro has also chimed in by saying it has "serious concerns" regarding the 2020 Copa America being relocated without sufficient time to prepare, and offers it support to any players that decline to compete after deeming it unsafe.
"The latest plan to arrange - at extremely short notice - for hundreds of footballers to compete in a tournament of such complexity leaves open uncertainty for each and every one of them, and their families," it said in a statement.
"As with previous national team competitions during the Covid-19 emergency period, players must be able to prioritize their own and their families' health without the risk of sanctions."
@FIFPRO's statement asking CONMEBOL to take all the needful measures to ensures players health.They have also stated that they'll support any player who decides to withdraw themselves from copa america due to health concerns. pic.twitter.com/vfEufI71PX— toto rabbit (@totospeaking) June 1, 2021
Peru manager Ricardo Gareca, who as mentioned was on the losing side that Sunday afternoon in the Maracana two years ago, suggested Brazil might have an unfair advantage by hosting twice on the trot.
"I don't think it's fair that Copa America is going to take place in Brazil," said the Argentine at a pre-match press conference for the upcoming, postponed World Cup qualifiers.
"The whole of South America is in trouble. No country is doing better than the another. All countries are severely affected by it."
🎙️Ricardo Gareca, manager of Peru national team:"I don't think it's fair that Copa America is going to take place in Brazil. The whole of South America is in trouble. No country is doing better than the another. All countries are severely affected by it."Via: @PrensaFutbolpic.twitter.com/b27zxy35JE— toto rabbit (@totospeaking) June 2, 2021
Sergio Aguero, who has just arrived home after signing for Barcelona, said at a similar presser that "it is clear that we are not [doing] well here [in Argentina], so it was a very correct decision from Conmebol.
"If it's complicated [in Brazil too], you can't play [there either]. From what I heard, they closed the borders as well [by land].
"It is very difficult to give an opinion," the striker said when probed on the matter again.
"We players want to play, that's clear. It turns out you have to find a place, [in order] to play. There's no time [to find somewhere else]. We've already lost last year.
"There was a year to see where it could be and what could happen, but that changes every month," he finished.
🗣️ Kun Aguero: "If playing #CopaAmerica in Brazil is complicated, then we can't play there. We want to play, but we have to find a suitable place to organise the tournament.” pic.twitter.com/HrnNl5Sf0G— infosfcb (@infosfcb) June 1, 2021
As coach Tite, and possibly Neymar but definitely one of Brazil's players, aren't set to face the press until later today, thoughts from the five-time World Cup winners' camp are still unknown.
Back in the political realm, though, Matias Walker, who represents Chile's fifth district, said his country which denied Lionel Messi his first major international trophy in 2015 and 2016, should mull not sending a squad at all.
"The Chilean Football Federation, the ANFP, have to seriously evaluate whether or not to expose the national teams, the officials, workers and the directors themselves to travel to a long tournament in a country like Brazil, which at the moment is the epicenter of infections and deaths on the continent," Walker said.
Conmebol hosting the Copa America in Brazil shows you how desperate they are for money. I don’t even need to go into the details of covid in the country, we all know that. But also this will be the 4th edition of the tournament in the last 6 years. What a joke you are @CONMEBOL— 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗹 𝗙𝗼𝗼𝘁𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗹 🇧🇷 (@BrasilEdition) May 31, 2021
"And which has been an example of government irresponsibility through the Bolsonaro government, where new variants appear every week."
"From the beginning of the pandemic I have been saying: I regret the deaths, but we have to live," remarked Bolsonaro, defending the decision to receive the tournament.
"This is a settled matter."