The event curtain-raiser was marred by an enormous outbreak within the Venezuela squad, whereas Bolivia hero Martins slammed organisers’ callous perspective
The potential for disruption to the Copa America as a result of coronavirus pandemic has been current since lengthy earlier than the event kicked off.
For that very purpose, Argentina ultimately declined to take up its hosting duties, and why Brazil’s stepping in on the final minute regardless of struggling simply as a lot, if not worse than its neighbour, caused such an uproar in the last few weeks.
And it took no time in any respect for these fears to develop into realised.
Even earlier than a single ball was kicked in anger, South America’s flagship competitors turned dominated and tainted by the virus.
Barely 24 hours earlier than showing alongside Brazil in Sunday’s event opener, Venezuela turned the primary – solely essentially the most optimistic amongst us would dare to say at this stage the one – group to see their Copa plans fly out of the window.
In a scene that has develop into grimly acquainted throughout membership competitions on the continent this previous 12 months, 13 Vinotinto gamers returned optimistic assessments on Saturday, prompting the nation to name up at least 15 replacements on the final minute so as to take part.
It was not fairly Enzo Perez donning the River Plate gloves within the Copa Libertadores ranges of farcical, however it left Venezuela as much more rank outsiders earlier than the motion had even started.
In the end, a group shorn of the likes of Tomas Rincon, Josef Martinez and Roberto Rosales held out gamely towards the formidable hosts, earlier than folding late on to a 3-0 defeat.
“It’s clear that [the outbreak] affected issues, however that does not cease me being pleased with the need, the dedication and efficiency of those that performed, I’m not unhappy to lose,” Venezuela’s Portuguese coach, Jose Pereiro, informed reporters after the match.
“I’d have favored to have my 11 starters and this defeat is brutal, however I’m happy with the boys as a result of they did all they may on the pitch.”
The Vinotinto aren’t the one aspect feeling the consequences of Covid. Bolivia have been shorn of three gamers in Monday’s defeat towards Paraguay, together with striker Marcelo Martins, whereas instances have additionally been detected within the Colombia and Peru delegations.
As of Tuesday, at least 52 infections had been registered by Copa organisers, seemingly exposing claims previous to the event that the pandemic could possibly be held in examine in areas struggling acute sanitary crises lengthy sufficient to stage a soccer event.
Martins, who performs his membership soccer in Brazil for Cruzeiro and is one in every of Bolivia’s largest sporting icons, delivered stinging criticism towards the authorities after studying of the present case tally.
“Thanks for this, CONMEBOL. It’s utterly your fault,” the 33-year-old stated on Instagram whereas sharing a photograph of one in every of his team-mates present process a nasal swab.
“If somebody dies what’s going to you do? What issues to you is cash. Gamers’ lives aren’t value something.”
Nor apparently, are these of the employees contracted to make this Copa occur: they make up 19 of the 52 instances confirmed thus far, a quantity that’s solely prone to proceed to rise because the weeks roll by in Brazil.
Regardless of CONMEBOL’s protestations that each precaution has been taken to make sure security, the truth on the bottom appears to point in any other case.
Eight of the Venezuela group which examined optimistic on the weekend performed towards Uruguay simply 4 days prior in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier, as did Martins, who netted from the penalty spot for Bolivia to carry Chile to a 1-1 draw.
How can the organisers then be sure that the 15 gamers referred to as up from throughout Venezuela and South America at a second’s discover by the Vinotinto aren’t additionally carrying the virus, coming as they’re from exterior the ‘bubble’?
The prospect for additional infections and even severe instances of sickness may be very actual and should be managed way more successfully than it has thus far on this event.
It’s clear simply how eager these in cost at CONMEBOL have been to go forward with the Copa even in such antagonistic circumstances.
Strikes reminiscent of turning within the first place to Brazil, a rustic with virtually half 1,000,000 useless, permitting Argentina to fly forwards and backwards from Buenos Aires to keep away from spending time within the neighbouring nation and permitting near-infinite group and squad modifications suggests a tacit acknowledgement that instances are going to proceed to look, and making an attempt to restrict their impact on the pitch as a lot as doable.
However this pandemic, particularly with the regular unfold of recent variants such because the extremely contagious Delta (already current amongst Brazil’s 80,000 each day new instances) can’t be shrugged off as an occupational hazard.
Martins is correct: gamers, workers and everybody at this Copa need to be shielded from sickness as a lot as doable – and thus far in Brazil that has not been the case.