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Colombia loses Copa América hosting rights

The postponed Copa América has been thrown into uncertainty less than a month before it is due to begin after the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) stripped co-hosting rights from Colombia.

CONMEBOL announced the news yesterday (Thursday), just hours after the Colombian government requested that the tournament, which is due to be held from June 13 to July 10, be granted a second postponement due to COVID-19.

CONMEBOL said in a statement: “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.

“CONMEBOL appreciates the enthusiasm and commitment of the President of the Republic of Colombia, Mr. Iván Duque, and his collaborators, as well as the president of the Colombian Football Federation, Ramón Jesurún, and his team. It is certain that in the future new projects will emerge together for the growth of Colombian and South American football.

“CONMEBOL ensures the realisation of the Copa América 2021 and will report in the coming days the relocation of the matches that were to be played in Colombia.”

CONMEBOL awarded hosting rights for the 2020 Copa América to Argentina and Colombia back in April 2019, marking the first time the national team tournament’s rights were assigned on a co-hosting basis. As COVID-19 took hold last year, CONMEBOL and European counterpart UEFA made a joint decision to postpone their respective national team showpieces to 2021.

Colombia is currently in the midst of a wave of protests against Duque, sparked by the president’s attempts last month to force through a tax increase during the pandemic. Duque subsequently backed down on his plan, but protests have continued and have broadened to take in others causes of concern for the country’s citizens.

This year’s edition of the Copa América was due to usher in significant changes to the traditional format, with five teams based in each of the host countries. Colombia’s host cities were scheduled to be Barranquilla, Bogotá, Cali and Medellín, with Barranquilla due to host the final at the Estadio Metropolitano (pictured).

Argentina’s host cities are Buenos Aires (Estadio Monumental), Córdoba (Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes), Mendoza (Estadio Malvinas Argentinas) and Santiago del Estero (Estadio Único). Earlier this week, Argentina’s President, Alberto Fernández, said that his country was willing to become the sole host if Colombia couldn’t fulfil its commitments due to the social unrest.

However, Argentina is also grappling with its own COVID-19 issues, recently recording a record number of daily cases and deaths. The country has registered more than 3.4 million cases and more than 72,000 deaths from the virus.

Image: CAMILOFORE2/CC BY-SA 4.0/Edited for size