The 2021 Copa America has been plunged into doubt after Argentina were dropped as hosts just 13 days before the tournament was due to kick off.
Ahead of the scheduled June 13 start date, Argentina has been removed as hosts due to what South American football federation Conmebol said was the “present circumstances”.
Conmebol did not disclose the nature of the circumstances that led to the decision but Argentina is currently experiencing a surge in Covid cases.
Officials from the organisation will meet on Monday to decide on the next steps for the tournament, which was held over from 2020 due to the pandemic and features 10 competing nations.
Argentina saw Covid cases grow quickly in May and prompted the government to mandate a strict new lockdown. Thursday saw a record one-day number of new cases and the overall death toll had hit 76,693 by the weekend, according to data from the World Health Organisation.
Even some players who had returned to South America to prepare for the tournament expressed doubts, with Luis Suarez of Uruguay telling reporters on Friday, “We have to give priority to the health of human beings”.
Gonzalo Belloso, Conmebol’s secretary-general, said last week the organisation had spoken to Chilean officials with a view to perhaps hosting some matches there.
Organisers are reluctant to call the tournament off because of its importance financially.
The last Copa America held in Brazil in 2019, brought in £84million and was the second-biggest annual source of revenue after the Copa Libertadores, the equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.