2021 Copa America struggles to find a home as Brazilian government hesitates on hosting the troubled tournament
South America's governing body for soccer (CONMEBOL) has certainly changed the way that international tournaments are arranged. Rather than careful bidding processes, thoughtful consideration and then years of planning, the new process is "raise your hand if you want a Copa America. Right, you've got less than two weeks to get it together."
Brazil did just that on Monday after a third location change for the latest edition of the much troubled tournament. The 2021 Copa America was due to take place last summer in Colombia and Argentina before it was pushed to this year due to COVID-19. However, the co-hosting plan was abandoned on May 20th due to political unrest in Colombia. Argentina was set to go solo.
On Monday, the tournament was then moved out of Argentina due to unspecified causes according to CONMEBOL but very much because to the terrible time the country is having dealing with a COVID-19 wave. So, Brazil stuck its arm in the air and volunteered to host the tournament which is supposed to kick off on 13th June.
But not so fast.
A backlash in Brazil from fans, who arguably love soccer more than other nation, has forced the Brazilian government to take a beat. Well, some parts of the Brazilian government aside from the country's president, Jair Bolsonaro, who is currently on the receiving end of protests calling for his impeachment, but was given much praise by CONMEBOL for his Copa America intervention.
Brazil is no better position in terms of dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic with the WHO reporting on Sunday that there have been 16,391,930 confirmed cases with 459,045 deaths, the second highest number in the world.
After memes were published declaring that the mascot for the new tournament was called 'Covidinho' a government official pumped the brakes on Brazil's decision. "Nothing is signed. These are only negotiations," was the declaration from Luiz Eduardo Ramos, Brazil's Minister of the Civil House, who said that a final decision is expected on Tuesday.
From abandoning plans A and B due to political unrest in one country and a dreadful COVID-19 situation in the other, CONMEBOL has chosen a nation currently undergoing both issues at the same time as the (latest) host of Copa America.
Barcelona announce signing of non-defending defender
On Monday, Barcelona boasted of bringing in one of the greatest strikers of the modern era with Manchester City striker, Sergio Aguero, set to join up at the Camp Nou from the beginning of July.
"Of course, it's a step forward in my career," declared Aguero leaving a team that won the league title and reached the Champions League final and joining a team that managed neither of those feats.
A day later and Barcelona are back with the free-signing-from-Manchester City action but with considerably less to brag. Eric Garcia will also be joining Barca from City at the beginning on July on a free transfer. The 20-year-old defender is set to sign a five-year deal at a club he left in 2017 with a buy-out clause of nearly half-a-million dollars.
The question now is how useful of a player Garcia will be for Barcelona, considering the Spaniard had just three Premier League starts last season and contributed to conceding nine goals in those three games.
But, free is free is free for a very cash-strapped club and a third footballer is expected to be announced fairly soon in the form of Liverpool midfielder, Georginio Wijnaldum. Meanwhile a confidence-boosting "period of reflection" will take place according to Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, on if he still wants Ronald Koeman as coach.
The three signings are also designed to keep Lionel Messi at the club, a player who faces an uncertain future both as to where he will be playing next season...and in which country he'll be playing this summer.
Questions raised over Osaka withdrawal at French Open
First round play continues today at the French Open, but there was not a huge amount of focus on what was happening on court.
Instead, more reaction is expected on Naomi Osaka's decision to withdrawal from the tournament saying that she did not want to be "a distraction". "(It's) the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being" said a statement.
The "distraction" was from the supposedly simple decision to not do post-match press conferences because of the mental strain the world's number two claims that would take.
That was a line in the sand no-no for the various governing bodies who threatened Osaka with fines and even expulsion from the French Open if she did not sit in a press room and be quizzed on the player's latest victory / defeat. Osaka herself says she will now take a break from tennis and admitted that she had suffered bouts of depression since winning the US Open back in 2018.
Questions are now being raised about the handling of the situation by tennis authorities who have forced a top performer to withdraw from one Grand Slam and potentially all the rest this season, over a seemingly small issue. "The powers that be don't protect their own," admonished NBA star, Stephen Curry.