The 2021 Copa América will no longer feature games in co-host Colombia after CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, announced on Thursday it would move games away from the country.
The tournament, delayed by a year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, was due to be jointly hosted for the first time its 105-year history, with matches split between Colombia and Argentina. CONMEBOL’s statement did not give an explanation for the move and did not make reference to the ongoing civil unrest in Colombia. Large-scale protests in the country are now into their third week. At least 42 people have died in the protests, according to Colombia’s Ombudsman Office. Rights groups say the death toll could be higher. The tournament, which will feature 10 South American nations, 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 Copa América 2021 and will report in the coming days the relocation of the matches that were to be played in Colombia,” the organization’s statement said. The co-hosting format would have seen Colombia host a Northern Group featuring Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, with Argentina hosting a Southern Group featuring Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. CONMEBOL announced in the same statement that it had rejected an appeal from the Colombian government to move the tournament to the end of the year. “For reasons related to the international calendar of competitions and the logistics of the tournament, it is impossible to transfer the Copa América 2021 to the month of November,” the statement added. Thursday’s news also comes with Argentina preparing to enter another Covid-19 lockdown as cases surge in the country. Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez announced in a video statement on Thursday that schools and non-essential business, social, sporting and religious establishments will be closed until May 30.