South American football body CONMEBOL announced on Thursday that Colombia will not host the Copa America next month, a decision taken less than a month before the opening of the match and amid a wave of street protests against Colombian President Ivan Duque.
This would be the first Copa America to host two countries.
Hours earlier, Colombian authorities asked CONMEBOL to postpone the tournament, which is also being hosted by Argentina. Sports Minister Ernesto Lucena told reporters that it should take place at the end of the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Copa America is scheduled to be played between June 13 and July 10.
CONMEBOL said in a statement that it was impossible to postpone the tournament for November and assured that it would inform “in the coming days about the relocation of the matches to be played in Colombia.”
On Tuesday, Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said his country would consider hosting the entire Copa America if Colombia is unable to host due to social unrest.
Protests in Colombia began on April 28th after President Ivan Duque tried to push for tax increases amid a pandemic that left millions without jobs and food. Although he quickly backed down, protesters remained on the streets, expanding their struggle to include complaints ranging from the devastated state of Colombia’s health and education systems to the slow implementation of the 2016 peace deal with Marxist rebels.
Police and protesters clashed in the Colombian cities of Pereira and Barranquilla last week, with the latter set to host the Copa America final.
The Copa Libertadores match last week between American de Cali and Brazilian Atletico Mineiro was interrupted several times due to tear gas used to disperse the protesters.
The original Copa America plan was for Buenos Aires to host the opening, quarter-finals and semi-finals. The cities of Cordoba, Mendoza and Santiago del Estero had to host Group A matches
This edition of the Copa America will include a new format with five teams based in each of the host countries. Group A includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Group B includes Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The four best teams in each group advance to the knockout stage.
Qatar, the hosts of the 2022 World Cup and Australia, both of whom had to play as guests, decided to withdraw from the tournament in February due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to eliminate Colombia as the host of the tournament does not guarantee calmer days for the Copa America. Argentina recently achieved a record number of daily deaths and deaths from COVID-19. The South American country has had more than 3.4 million cases and more than 72,000 deaths from the virus.