Brazil’s national football team players have agreed to play in the Copa America while expressing concerns over the late decision to stage the continental tournament in their home country
Players said in a statement that they released through their social media accounts that they are “unsatisfied” with CONMEBOL, South America’s football governing body, which decided to move the tournament to Brazil after Colombia and Argentina were dropped as co-hosts.However, they also said they don’t want to make the organisation of Copa America a political debate and will never refuse a chance to play for Brazil.”We are a cohesive group, but with different ideas. For multiple reasons, humanitarian or of professional nature, we are unsatisfied with the leading of Copa America by CONMEBOL, no matter if it were hosted belatedly in Chile or in Brazil,” the players’ post said.”All the recent facts make us believe it was an inadequate process,” they further said.Brazil has alarming COVID-19 figures, with more than 4,75,000 deaths attributed to coronavirus. Players did not address the pandemic directly in their text.According to local media, the players weren’t necessarily worried about the virus, but felt they had to voice their criticism to the president of the Brazilian soccer confederation, Rogerio Caboclo, for deciding to move the tournament without consulting them.”We are workers, professional footballers. We have a mission to take with the historic green and yellow shirt that won the World Cup five times,” the players’ message said. “We are against the organisation of Copa America, but we will never say no to the Brazilian national team.”Organisers did not immediately respond to the criticism of Brazil players.Brazil are set to face Venezuela in the opening match of the tournament on Sunday evening at the Mane Garrincha stadium in the capital Brasilia. The country’s top court could yet stop the tournament from taking place when it votes Thursday to take a decision on the matter.On Friday, after Brazil’s 2-0 home win against Ecuador in a World Cup qualifying game, coach Tite said he and his players would delay an announcement on whether they would participate in the tournament, in a decision that mixes views on pandemic control and internal politics.The announcement came after Tuesday’s match against Paraguay in World Cup qualifiers. Brazil won 2-0, with goals by Neymar and Lucas Paqueta. The Brazilians lead the table with six wins in six matches.President Jair Bolsonaro is a staunch supporter of the tournament being held in Brazil. The far-right leader has defied social distancing policies, claiming shutdown measures kill more than the virus.Many Bolsonaro supporters have criticised Tite since Friday, suggesting the coach was leading a boycott against the tournament for an alleged opposition to the president. The coach never said his players should skip Copa America, but local reports said team captains discussed that possibility over the last week.Juninho Paulista, the coordinator of Brazil’s national team, said in the post-match news conference Tuesday that the text published by players also includes the opinion of the coaching staff.Tite insisted since last week his priority was the two rounds of World Cup qualifiers that Brazil played and won. He promised to discuss the decisions around Copa America after the match against Paraguay, but fell short when he had the chance.”I am not a hypocrite. I am not aloof and I know what is happening. But I know what the priority is. The priority is my work and the dignity of my work,” he said.Tite is expected to announce Brazil’s squad for Copa America on Wednesday.