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Copa America removed from Colombia amid ongoing protests

A last-ditch effort from the Colombian government to move the tournament to November failed on Thursday

Colombia will no longer act as co-host for the 2021 Copa America, CONMEBOL confirmed on Thursday. 

The nation had been scheduled to hold the competition alongside Argentina, including the final on July 10 which was to be played in Barranquilla’s Estadio Metropolitano. 

But ongoing protests at the country’s governance forced CONMEBOL to intervene, with the decision coming after a last-ditch effort from Colombia to postpone the Copa until November failed.

What was said? 

“With regards to the Colombian government’s formal request to reschedule the CONMEBOL Copa America for November, CONMEBOL can reveal the following,” the governing body explained in a statement published on its official website

“Due to reasons related to the international competition calendar and tournament logistics, it will be impossible to move the 2021 Copa America to November. 

“CONMEBOL is grateful for the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the President of the Republic of Colombia, Ivan Duque and his collaborators, as well as by the president of the Colombian Football Federation, Ramon Jesurun, and his team. We are sure that in the future new projects together will emerge for the growth of Colombian and South American football. 

“CONMEBOL can ensure the playing of the 2021 CONMEBOL Copa America and will reveal in the coming days the relocation of the games that were due to be played in Colombia.”

The bigger picture 

Protests in Colombia began at the end of April due to planned tax and healthcare reforms announced by President Ivan Duque. 

They have continued almost without a pause for three consecutive weeks, with capital Bogota, Medellin and Cali – three of the prospective Copa venues – seeing some of the most vehement demonstrations. 

Human rights groups allege that more than 40 have died in clashes between protesters and the authorities who have responded in force to the ‘national strike’. Tensions between citizens and police have continued to escalate, while there are also recent reports of vigilante groups allegedly firing on and attacking demonstrations across the country.

CONMEBOL had originally responded to the crisis by confirming Colombia as a host nation, despite several Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana games being moved outside the country due to security concerns and others, such as River Plate’s clash against Junior in Barranquilla and Atletico Mineiro’s victory over America de Cali, suffering frequent stoppages due to violent clashes outside the stadiums. 

“We hope to play the Copa there and that is why we changed the timings of those games, so that government forces are fully focused on the current social situation,” CONMEBOL director Gonzalo Belloso had told Clarin on May 9. 

Just nine days later, however, the continued tension on the streets – which protest leaders have promised to continue – made it clear that the Copa could not be held in Colombia.

While CONMEBOL is yet to confirm where the matches will be moved, one option is to play the entire tournament in Argentina – while Chile and Paraguay have also expressed interest in taking on hosting duties at the last minute.

The Copa America, which was originally scheduled to be played in 2020, kicks off on June 13 and brings together only the 10 CONMEBOL nations, as guests Australia and Qatar both pulled out. 

The sides are split into two groups of five, with the top four qualifying for the quarter-final stage.

Further reading 

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