- Rafael Barifouse
- BBC News Brazil, Sao Paulo
The celebration of the Copa América in Brazil could be “the last straw” for the situation in the country to lead to a third wave of cases and deaths from covid-19.
This analysis is by Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, professor of Neuroscience at Duke University, in the United States.
Nicolelis coordinated for ten months the scientific committee to fight the virus of the consortium of governments of the Northeast of Brazil, but since February he has spoken independently.
In an interview with BBC News Brazil, he argues that some legal measure should be adopted to prevent the holding of competition in the country and, if it is held anyway, that the population boycott the event.
‘We become the garbage dump of the planet’
Nicolelis says that when she learned on Sunday, May 30, that Argentina was no longer hosting the soccer tournament due to the severity of the pandemic in the country, she even commented to her friends that now her eyes would be on Brazil.
“I was kidding … I didn’t imagine this,” says Nicolelis.
On Monday morning, the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) announced the transfer of the Copa América to Brazil.
“This is one kick in the mouth for Brazilians who lost relatives, for all of us who have been quarantined at home for 14 months. But it was predictable, “says Nicolelis.
“We have become the dump of the planet. Everything that should not be done in a pandemic is being done here [en Brasil]”, dice.
“This news has already spread around the world, and it is incredible that the second country by number of deaths is the host of a continental event.”
‘The government wants to hide the pandemic’
Originally, the Copa América had two venues: Argentina and Colombia.
But Conmebol announced on May 20 that the championship would no longer be held in Colombia due to the wave of protests against the government that the country is experiencing and that have been violently repressed.
The second headquarters, Argentina faces “the worst moment of the pandemic“, in the words of President Alberto Fernández himself.
And the polls indicated that the majority of the population was against the realization of the America’s Cup.
Conmebol explained that after making the decision that Argentina was no longer hosting the tournament, and with Colombia as well, it spoke with the Brazilian government through the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Rogério Caboclo.
President Jair Bolsonaro “immediately supported the initiative, with the approval of the Ministries of Civil House, Health, Foreign Relations and the National Sports Secretariat,” Conmebol said.
“And Brazil accepted this challenge instantly. To reply to Pfizer, you need multiple emails. To respond to Conmebol, a phone call is enough, “Nicolelis jokes, referring to the position of the Bolsonaro government regarding the various offers of vaccines against covid-19 made by the pharmaceutical company.
“It is an attempt to hide the pandemic, to show that the situation has normalized enough to make an event like this,” believes the neuroscientist.
‘The situation in Brazil is desperate’
In the statement, the president of Conmebol, Alejandro Domínguez, justified himself saying that Brazil “is experiencing a moment of stability” in the pandemic.
This is an assessment opposite to that made by Nicolelis.
The researcher says that the country has already entered the third wave of cases and deaths and that the severity of this new stage will depend on how the country acts.
“The Brazilian situation is desperate. We only have 10% of the population vaccinated, cases are growing again, ICU occupancy has increased for ten days, the transmission rate has once again been above one, “says the researcher.
“We’re on the rise of the third wave, and an event like this could be the last straw that will blow it up.
Nicolelis says that the same criticisms can be made of the demonstrations on Saturday, May 29, against the federal government.
“You have to be consistent. This is not the time for that,” he says.
He also criticizes that the celebration of the Tokyo Olympics has not been postponed, despite protests from citizens, doctors and scientists.
“Sport, which was supposed to promote health, has become a business with no respect for human life. The Greeks must be walking around in their grave with the monster they created,” says Nicolelis.
‘Football doesn’t just crowd the stadium’
The researcher estimates that the bubble regime surrounding the competition, which would begin on June 13, with measures to isolate and test players and teams to avoid contagion, will have no effect.
He gives as an example the dispute with similar precautions in the final phase of the Superliga, the main volleyball championship in the country.
“The coach of the men’s team fell ill with covid and almost died. [La burbuja] it didn’t work. And there is no time to organize a bubble for the America’s Cup. How are you going to do that in less than two weeks?“asks the scientist.
In the same way, he does not believe that the fact that the matches do not have an audience in the stadiums is enough.
“The crowds in football do not crowd inside the stadium. They also crowd outside, in bars, at parties, in houses from the fans, in various places. “
‘We have to boycott the Copa América’
For all this, Nicolelis believes that the Federal Supreme Court must be summoned to prevent the tournament from being held given the health risk it poses.
And this risk is both for Brazil, says the researcher, with the arrival and circulation in the country of several foreign delegations, and for the rest of the world, given the possibility of carrying variants of the new coronavirus circulating in Brazil to other countries and continents.
Although he is a football fan, the scientist says he is increasingly disappointed with the way the sports business is managed in this crisis.
“It seems that football is above everything,” he says.
“Millions of fans and I we have lost the emotional connection with football for that, “he adds.
“We have to boycott the America’s Cup. The population has to pressure the TSF and Congress to avoid this competition. And look, I always stopped what I was doing, anywhere in the world, to see the selection. It’s over. I’m not going to see anything. “
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.