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The Copa Libertadores returns at the worst moment of the pandemic in South America

This Tuesday the Copa Libertadores restarts, a tournament prolific in anecdotes. To the extravagance that River-Boca defined the 2018 edition in Spain, new singularities will be added, as a result of the restrictions in the fight against covid-19 in South America. For example, a technical director stranded by the closure of dozens of airports will direct his players 8,230 kilometers from the playing field on Wednesday.

“We request authorization from the Conmebol to have an electronic device in the bank. They have not authorized us yet, but the idea is to have a notebook with the Zoom open and a person from the coaching staff who will look at me, that I will be at home, also online with WhatsApp ”, explains Argentine Martín Brignani, coach of Merida students, one of the two Venezuelan clubs participating in the Cup.

Brignani will continue from Mar del Plata, Argentina, the game that his team will play at the other end of the subcontinent against Lima Alliance of Peru, one of 16 matches that the Cup will return to this week after 187 days. The tournament that marks the soccer pulse of South America was paralyzed on March 12 when half of the first phase of the 2020 edition had not yet been completed.

“The club authorized me to return to my country on a repatriation flight in May, but no one expected this to happen. Since then I cannot return to Venezuela. I went through all the sensations and now I’m directly laughing ”, the coach de-dramatizes before a situation that, beyond the bizarre in sports, arouses uncertainty and even repudiation in health: a club from Paraguay on Monday accused the authorities of his country to ignore the protocols of Conmebol and announced that it will initiate legal actions.

In times of closed borders, border crossings will be opened for clubs and the 10 participating countries will be visited by foreign teams. The Cup will resume this Tuesday with four games in different countries, Colo Colo-Peñarol in Chile, Wilstermann-Athletico Paranaense in Bolivia, Santos-Olimpia in Brazil and Binational-Liga de Quito in Peru. The action will continue with five games this Wednesday and seven this Thursday, and will be repeated next week with another 16 games.

Conmebol, which has already collected the money from television and sent it to the participating clubs, is determined to carry out the Cup. At the 500 million dollars that the tournament moves annually, they do not seem to beat them or the worst moment of the pandemic in South America : the Libertadores resumes in the heart of the covid-19.

Of the 29,303,757 cases registered in the world as of this Tuesday morning, according to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University In the United States, five of the 11 countries with the highest number of infected are Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. Ecuador is not on that list but it is among the 15 nations with the highest number of deaths. Only in the São Pablo region, where three teams from the 2020 edition of the Cup (Palmeiras, Santos and San Pablo) play, there are 893,349 infected.

According to the requirements of Conmebol, the clubs carried out tests prior to the competition and some results were, to say the least, disappointing: Boca registered 18 positive cases in its squad. However, in an unexpected twist, the health authorities of Paraguay, the headquarters of Conmebol, authorized this Monday that the players of the Argentine team who tested positive – if they do not present symptoms and remain isolated for the last 14 days – can also travel to Asunción. to face Libertad on Thursday.

Guillermo Sequera, director of Health surveillance in Paraguay, headquarters of Conmebol, explained the new modality: “The doctor of Mouth you will have to sign that your players are not contagious. Next week we will find out if there is an outbreak in soccer players from Freedom. In that case you must pay Mouth”. While the coach of the Argentine team, Miguel Russo – 64, considered a risk patient – will stay in his country, Libertad reacted with fury. “Foreigners come with a positive test and they can play, we are all crazy,” said Rubén Di Tore, president of the Paraguayan club. Through a statement addressed to the authorities of her country, Libertad also announced that she will initiate legal actions “in order to safeguard health” and expressed her “total indignation, repudiation and absolute concern.”

In its accelerated relaxation of rules to specify the return of the Cup – and try to make the tournament come alive until the final, scheduled for January 2021 -, the leadership also expanded the list of allowed athletes twice. To the usual quota of 30 players that each club must present, Conmebol added an extra license of ten footballers in August, to reach 40, and this Sunday it added 10 more, to complete 50. “But that is a move that It can only benefit the big clubs, ”says Brignani, the Argentine coach who will direct Estudiantes de Mérida through Zoom and WhatsApp. Only professionals can be added and we are barely 21 ”.

In three countries out of the 10 participants, Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia, local competitions have not yet resumed, so their teams are supposed to be at a disadvantage. Argentine clubs, including River, champion in 2018 and runner-up in 2019, could not even play preparation friendlies so this Thursday they will take to the field for the first time after six months.

Logically without an audience in the stadiums, Conmebol authorizes 276 people to be divided into three areas of the grandstands: competition areas, gates of the venue and TV area. The players will not be able to exchange rival jerseys once the game is over, nor are the captains allowed to exchange the flags in the previous one.

Clubs that do not show up will lose points.