Brazil’s national football team has agreed to play in the upcoming Copa America despite concerns over the late decision to stage the continental tournament in its home country.
The tournament, postponed from last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, was scheduled to be jointly hosted by Colombia and Argentina.
Colombia was dropped last month amid a wave of protests against President Ivan Duque while Argentina was ruled out due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Brazil has reported more than 17 million cases of coronavirus. More than 476,000 people have died of the virus in the country whose death toll is second only to the US.
Experts have warned it is facing a new surge that could be exacerbated by a major international sports tournament.
On Wednesday, Brazilian players used social media to publish a message saying they are “unsatisfied” with South American football’s governing body, CONMEBOL, which decided to move the tournament to Brazil.
They said they did not want to make the organisation of Copa America a political debate though.
“We are against organizing the Copa America, but we will never say no to the Brazilian national team,” the players said in a joint statement.
“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.
“All the recent facts make us believe it was an inadequate process.”
On Tuesday, the country’s Supreme Court said it would rule on Thursday on two requests to block the 10-nation tournament, which is scheduled to open Sunday and run through July 10.
Chief Justice Luiz Fux said given the “exceptional nature of the case”, he had decided to have the full 11-member court take up the matter in an extraordinary virtual session.
The players did not address the pandemic directly in their text.
Over the last week, local media reported many Brazilian players were not necessarily worried about COVID but felt they had to voice their criticism to the president of the Brazilian football confederation, Rogerio Caboclo, for deciding to move the tournament without consulting them.
Caboclo was suspended from his office on Sunday following a sexual harassment case in which he denies any wrongdoing.
The tournament has become a divisive, politically loaded matter in the country. Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, gave his blessing to host it.
But epidemiologists have voiced alarm, as have Bolsonaro critics and some coaches and players from participating countries.
Brazil and Venezuela are scheduled to kick off the Copa America at the Mane Garrincha Stadium on Sunday evening in the capital Brasilia.