President Alberto Fernández has placed a question mark over the participation of Argentine clubs in the upcoming Copa Libertadores, given the advance of Covid-19 in the region.
Speaking Thursday, the Peronist leader implied he was concerned by plans to restart the tournament, which is scheduled to restart on September 15. Fernández said there were fears that players from local clubs could be infected with the novel coronavirus while travelling to play matches in the region, especially in Brazil.
"A cross of the border, entering into Brazil with the number of outbreaks of infection they have... we have to see the numbers,” Fernández told Radio Con Vos before trailing off.
“I don't want to speak any more so as not to disturb anyone," he then added.
Brazil is the second-highest country in the world, behind the United States, when considering fatalities from Covid-19. More than 90,000 people have died from the virus, with more than 2.5 million confirmed cases in Argentina’s giant neighbour.
Local football clubs are expected to resume training in August under a strict protocol approved by health authorities, although no specific date has yet been set for the return.
The Copa Libertadores was suspended in mid-March, while the Copa Sudamericana played a round in February and is due to restart on October 27.
Boca Juniors, River Plate, Racing Club, Defensa y Justicia and Tigre are due to resume their participation of the 2020 Copa Libertadores group stage in mid-September 17, according to the schedule published by CONMEBOL, the sport’s regional governing body.
River are first up – they are due to play in Brazil against São Paulo on September 17.
Fernández didn’t put the focus on local clubs, saying “it is not a problem centrally of the clubs, which surely have their interests.”
“Football is a business, it moves money – I understand all that,” he added. “But you have to put yourself in the head and body of that player who has to go home and live with their parents, with all those fears hanging over them.”
"The only concern they have is that if they catch it, they could infect their parents and it is they who do not want to be at risk. They are right," said the Peronist leader.
"I wonder, to that player who feels that, do we have to demand that he goes to play a football game in the epicentre of the pandemic? Because right now, the epicentre is South America," said Fernández.
Other regional sporting ties are also sparking concerns, given the advance of Covid-19 in Latin America. Regional qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup are scheduled to kick off in October.
CONMEBOL’s other flagship international tournament, the Copa América – which was due to take place this summer in Colombia and Argentina – has already been pushed back to 2021.