Football: Copa America games moved from Colombia after civil unrest

The anti-government protests have killed at least 15 people. PHOTO: AFP

BOGOTA (REUTERS) - The 2021 Copa America will no longer feature games in co-host Colombia after the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) decided on Thursday (May 20) to move games away from the country after a wave of civil unrest there.

The tournament, delayed a year by the pandemic, was due to be jointly hosted for the first time its 105-year history, with matches split between Colombia and Argentina.

"Conmebol guarantees the realisation of the 2021 Copa America and in the coming days will inform on the relocation of those games that were to be held in Colombia," the organisation said in a statement.

Conmebol rejected an appeal from Colombia to move the tournament to the end of the year.

Argentina earlier this week offered to host the whole tournament amid weeks of anti-government protests in Colombia which have killed at least 15 people.

Tear gas fired outside some Colombian stadiums during recent matches led to discomfort for players and condemnation from coaches and officials.

Conmebol already transferred some games out of Colombia to Paraguay and Ecuador.

The protests that began in late April, originally against a now cancelled tax plan, have led to food and gasoline shortages and stymied exports, the government said.

Protest demands have expanded to include calls for a basic income, an end to police violence and more opportunities for young people.

The tournament features all 10 South American nations and was due to kick off in Buenos Aires on June 13 and culminate with the final in the Colombian city of Barranquilla on July 11.

It originally featured 12 teams, but invited guests Qatar and Australia pulled out after the dates were changed.

The co-hosting model was based around a northern group in Colombia featuring Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela and a southern group playing in Argentina featuring the host nation, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The five teams based in Colombia now face an anxious wait to see where they will now be based.

Although Conmebol have given no indication of where they might move the games, Chile - the South American country with the highest vaccination rates - could be one possibility.

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