Brazil’s Supreme Court has ruled that the country can host the Copa America despite the coronavirus pandemic, clearing the way for the troubled football tournament to go ahead in three days.
In an extraordinary virtual session held Thursday, the majority of high court judges ruled against the plaintiffs who argued that the South American championships posed an unacceptable health risk.
Several judges, however, have ordered the government to take additional security measures.
“It is up to (governors and mayors of the state) to establish the appropriate health protocols and ensure that they are respected to prevent a ‘Copavirus’, with new infections and the emergence of new variants,” wrote Justice Carmen Lucia in his sentence.
The three cases before the court were the last – and perhaps the last – high point for the organizers, who seem determined to pull off this edition of the oldest international football tournament underway despite the obstacles. .
Already delayed by a year due to the pandemic, the Copa America was almost uncovered when the original co-hosts Colombia and Argentina went to the last minute – the first because of violent anti-government protests, the second because of a wave of COVID-19 cases.
With the clock ticking for this Sunday’s opening match, Brazil entered last week as emergency guests for the 10th nation tournament.
But the decision is highly controversial: Brazil is also furious with COVID-19, which has killed nearly 480,000 people in the country, according to the United States alone.
Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly challenged the advice of experts to contain the pandemic, has given his blessing to host the tournament.
He welcomed the court’s decision and predicted that Brazil would “massacre” Venezuela in the opening match.
But epidemiologists warn that Brazil is currently facing a new wave of cases, and say hosting a major international sporting event could exacerbate the health crisis.
“It’s impossible to describe the madness of trying to organize an event of this magnitude right now,” David Urbaez, an infectious disease specialist, told AFP news agency.
Supreme Court petitions were filed by the National Metal Workers Union, the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) and the Workers ’Party (PT) of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the likely opponent. of Bolsonaro in the presidential election next year.
They argued that the tournament risks exacerbating the health crisis and “violating fundamental rights to life and health.”
Bolsonaro and the South American football confederation, CONMEBOL, insist the tournament will be safe.
Brazilian officials are demanding that matches be held without fans, including the July 10 final at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Teams will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing every 48 hours. Their movements will be limited, and they will travel to parties in the four host cities on charter flights.
However, the health minister on Monday dismissed plans to require all players, coaches and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said it was too late to ensure immunity, and that side effects after vaccination “could compromise players’ performance”.
The organizers face a lot of reaction. Two main sponsors, Mastercard and beer giant Ambev, said Wednesday they were pulling their marks from the tournament. A third, alcoholic beverage company Diageo, did the following Thursday.
And several players and coaches have criticized the event, including Uruguayan Luis Suarez, Argentine Sergio “Kun” Aguero and the entire Brazilian national team.
Neymar and the team – in addition to Brazil’s coach Tite – were taken aback by the news his country would receive, and there was talk of a boycott.
They stopped short at the end, but were thwarted in their criticism of CONMEBOL.
“We are against organizing the Copa America,” they said in a joint statement Tuesday.