Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has immersed himself in yet another coronavirus-related controversy after he has decided to take over hosting duties of the Copa America from Colombia and Argentina.
The tournament was facing cancellation after having already been postponed from its original schedule in 2020. Last year, the raging pandemic prevented the tournament from taking place. This summer appeared to be feasible, but Colombia, one of the original host countries, was suddenly embroiled in political unrest.
The remaining co-host, Argentina, was also forced to cancel as it struggles with a third wave of coronavirus infections. In a shock move, the South American Football Association (Conmebol) announced that Brazil would take over hosting duties instead.
The tournament is due to start next week, but jaws dropped at the decision because Brazil is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world with close to 17 million Covid-19 infections and almost half a million related deaths.
According to the BBC, a Supreme Court judge has asked the president for an explanation. Bolsonaro believes that the event does not pose a health risk, even if it involves participants from across the continent. Brazil's health minister is reportedly also in agreement.
"As far as it is up to me, and all the ministers, including the health minister, it is all decided. From the beginning I have said about the pandemic: I regret the deaths, but we have to live," he added.
The opposition Workers' Party filed a lawsuit objecting to the decision, while Senator Otto Alencar appealed to Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr.
"Neymar, I want to tell you something: You shouldn't agree with the holding of this Copa America in Brazil! Don't agree to this. It is not this championship that we need to now compete in. We need to compete in the vaccination championship," he said.
Brazil has an abundance of suitable venues to host the event, but fans won't be able to attend matches in person as a safety precaution.