BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina offered to host the whole of the 2021 Copa America on Tuesday, replacing their current co-hosts Colombia, where a wave of civil unrest has rocked the country since late April.
The tournament is being held in two countries for the first time in its 105-year history but nationwide protests in Colombia have led to at least 15 deaths.
The tournament is scheduled to kick off in Buenos Aires on June 13. Fifteen games are slated for Colombia -- including the final in Barranquilla on July 10 -- and 13 games are scheduled for Argentina.
Argentine president Alberto Fernandez told the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) his country could stand in if the situation in Colombia does not stabilise.
“If there is a problem, we are ready for the possibility of hosting (the Copa) alone but the protocols would have to be very strict,” Fernandez told Radio 10. “If CONMEBOL said, ‘you can take charge’ then I am ready to study it.”
Fernandez, who had previously cast doubt on the tournament’s viability as COVID-19 cases rose in Argentina, said CONMEBOL would have to provide “strict guarantees”.
His comments come as 20 members of one of Argentina’s biggest teams tested positive for the virus, throwing their next match in doubt due to a lack of fit players.
With 15 players isolating after testing positive on Friday and Saturday, River Plate were forced to play Sunday’s league match against Boca Juniors with a fifth-choice goalkeeper.
More than 70,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Argentina.
The demonstrations in Colombia, which were originally called in late April against a now-cancelled tax plan, have expanded to include demands such as a basic income, an end to police violence and opportunities for young people.
More marches are planned this week.
(Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo in Buenos Aires; additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; writing by Andrew Downie in London; Editing by Toby Davis)