Rio to allow fans for Brazil-Argentina final of Copa America

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Rio de Janeiro, one of the Brazilian cities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday gave the go-ahead for thousands of fans to attend Saturday's Copa America final against Argentina at the Maracana stadium.

The city has decided to allow a crowd of up to 7,800 people, ten percent of the stadium's full capacity of 78,000.

This would make it the first match in the 2021 Copa America, South America's largest international football tournament, with fans in the stands.

The decision was based on the organizers presenting protocols "of operation and accreditation that adopt measures to protect the health of those involved, using appropriate tools to prevent contagion and the propagation of Covid-19," said a notice in the official gazette Friday.

Those wishing to attend must arrive with a negative coronavirus test taken no longer than 48 hours earlier. Once inside, they will be required to observe social distancing.

The tournament, organized by CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, kicked off on June 13 in Brasilia amid widespread criticism of the decision to give the event to Brazil, the country with the second-highest Covid-19 death toll after the United States.

The pandemic has claimed more than 530,000 lives in the country -- some 29,000 of them in Rio alone.

The city's mortality rate from the virus is 432 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost double the 252/100,000 countrywide figure.

Despite opposition from politicians, citizens and some players and coaches, Brazil agreed at the 11th hour to host the world's oldest international tournament after CONMEBOL took it from co-hosts Argentina, battling a pandemic surge, and Colombia, where dozens have died in anti-government protests.

Strong support for hosting the event came from Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose much-criticized handling of the pandemic is the subject of a parliamentary investigation.

The Copa America is happening at the same time as the Euro Cup, which is being played at 11 venues, with fans.

The Euro Cup final at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium on Sunday will be played with some 60,000 spectators.