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Officials said on Saturday that a dozen members of Venezuela’s national football team, both players and staff had tested positive for COVID-19, just one day before the team’s first Copa America encounter against hosts Brazil.



This comes latest in a series of misfortunes for this year’s edition of the Copa America tournament. The health secretariat of the Federal District, which includes Brasilia, reported that tournament organisers informed them of the positive tests Friday night, just after the Venezuelan squad arrived. They further reported that all infected individuals had been quarantined at a hotel.  

Brazil’s health minister, Marcelo Queiroga, declared that there is no reason for the Brazil-Venezuela Copa America match, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, to be postponed. 



Due to the Covid-19 spread in the national team of Venezuela, the Venezuelan Football Federation has summoned up 15 fresh players to the Copa America to replace those who have been infected. They are flying in players from their native league, Venezuela’s Primera Division, to face the Selecao in the tournament’s opening match.

New Venezuelan players called include goalkeepers Yhonatann Yustiz, Giancarlo Schiavone and Luis Romero; defenders Eduardo Ferreira, Diego Osorio and Francisco La Mantía; midfielders Leonardo Flores, Christian Rivas, Christian Larotonda and Abraham Bahachille; and forwards Richard Figueroa, Daniel Pérez, Eric Ramírez, Robinson Flores and Jan Hurtado.



Venezuela’s Portuguese manager, José Peseiro, claims that the players’ absence has hampered his team’s preparations ahead of the South American tournament. “Today we didn’t practice, we were isolated waiting for the tests. Tomorrow we will play with 11 who did not have the time to practice or play together.” the manager said.



“An emergency group of replacement players has been called up, and they are ready to join the camp in Brazil,” the Venezuelan football federation said in a statement.

“The Venezuelan soccer federation’s board of directors, led by president Jorge Gimenez, stands in solidarity with all those affected and pledges all necessary efforts for their speedy recovery.” 



The positive cases in the Venezuelan camp come as another stumbling hurdle for Copa America 2021. The South American competition appears to be shrouded in misfortune. Copa America was supposed to take place last year, but the Covid-19 outbreak ruined the show, and the quadrennial competition was postponed by a year.  

This year, until April, everything seemed to be going swimmingly for CONMEBOL and Copa America 2021, with Argentina and Colombia both set to host the event. However, the world’s oldest international competition was jeopardised when Colombia saw large anti-government protests, and Argentina was ravaged by the Covid-19 outbreak shortly before the commencement of an already postponed Copa America. 



A number of countries expressed interest in hosting the competition, but no final decision was reached. 

CONMEBOL, unwilling to postpone the event, opted to move it to Brazil — the nation with the second-highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in the world – in what has been a very contentious choice that has become a major political issue in both Brazil and South America. 

And now, with the emergence of positive cases in Venezuela’s dugout, another concern for the South American competition may be on the way.   



These Covid-19 cases in the Venezuelan team just add fuel to the fire, proving that CONMEBOL’s decision to hold the Copa America 2021 in Brazil was a terrible one. 

Brazil as a country has seen its healthcare sector completely collapse. The Samba’s homeland has been overrun by the virus. The decision to move Copa America to Brazil has been considered solely political. 



Of course, canceling the tournament would have resulted in massive financial losses for CONMEBOL, but shifting it from a nation crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic – Argentina- to a nation with a far worse pandemic situation makes no sense.  



According to various speculations, the decision to hold the tournament is being utilised as a strategy to distract the public away from Brazil’s deteriorating medical infrastructure. Not only that, but the Brazilian government is anticipating that Copa America would give the country’s tourist economy a chance to revive.   

But putting the lives of these football players, staff members and a bunch of other people in jeopardy is not at all the right thing to do. Despite criticism from several players- even including those from the host country-, pleas to postpone the event have been met with resounding silence. 



Concerning the match, Venezuela were already major underdogs going into their opening Copa America encounter with Brazil; now, it will probably be a question of how they’ll stop the Brazilian offensive firepower to keep the scoreboard reasonable.

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