Brazil’s Supreme Court on Thursday gave the green light to start the Copa America here despite the country’s alarming numbers over COVID-19.
The unanimous vote by 11 judges provides relief to President Jair Bolsonaro and tournament organizers in Brazil, which hosts the event after Colombia and Argentina withdrew.
The court rejected two cases against holding the tournament in Brazil, considering that the license for the matches is a decision of officials in the country in which it will be held; All four referees at the Copa América positions are Bolsonaro allies.
Brazil is scheduled to face Venezuela in the opening match of the Copa America on Sunday at the Mani Garrincha stadium in the capital, Brasilia. The final will be played on July 10 at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
The court’s ruling came in response to the appeals filed by the Brazilian Socialist Party and the union of metalworkers against hosts Brazil. The party said in its request: “It is clear that the intense circulation of visitors in the national territory will spread COVID-19 to several countries, as well as potentially allowing the entry of new variants.” The federation said that no international sporting events should be held as long as social distancing policies are in place.
Brazil still has one of the highest daily COVID-19 infection rates in the world, even though the death toll has fallen for nearly two months from its highest level.
Bolsonaro has strongly supported Copa America hosts Brazil since the South American Football Confederation made a last-minute appeal. He denounced the closure measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and claimed that their economic impact kills more than the virus.
Judge Carmen Lucia argued in her vote that only state authorities could allow or prohibit Copa America locally, and her colleagues agreed.
“The Supreme Court can act in accordance with the directives of the Constitution and current legislation. Judges can neither act as they like nor as they wish,” said Lucia, who previously criticized the Bolsonaro administration’s decision to host the event. She added that neither Bolsonaro nor any sports body can overturn the decisions of state authorities.
The tournament will be held in the states of Rio de Janeiro, Goiás, Mato Grosso and the Federal District of the country. Several other countries refused to host the tournament matches.