The Brazilian national team will play in the Copa America, media reports said Monday, ending rumors they would boycott the tournament, which is being organized on their home soil in a last-minute, pandemic-defying rush.
Brazil’s players were reportedly unhappy over the 11th-hour decision to host the South American championships after a Covid-19 surge forced organizers to withdraw the tournament from Argentina.
However, instead of a boycott, they will make their grievances known in a joint statement Tuesday night after their World Cup qualifier against Paraguay, reported leading media group Globo’s sports site, globoesporte.com.
Organizers have been struggling to pull off this edition of the Copa America, the world’s oldest running international football tournament, scheduled from June 13 to July 10.
Original co-hosts Argentina and Colombia fell through over pandemic concerns in the former and anti-government unrest in the latter.
Neymar and team — as well as coach Tite — were reportedly caught off guard by news the tournament would be held in Brazil, which is itself reeling from the pandemic, with the second-highest death toll worldwide.
Tite said Thursday the players had asked for a meeting over the matter with Brazil’s top football official, Rogerio Caboclo, head of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).
Media reports said the encounter had been particularly stormy.
However, tension reportedly subsided somewhat after the CBF announced Sunday that Caboclo had been suspended for 30 days following allegations against him of sexually harassing a CBF employee.
Caboclo, 48, denies wrongdoing.
But the decision effectively sidelines him from Copa America preparations.
Hosting the Copa America has become a divisive, politically loaded affair for Brazil, which has recorded more than 470,000 Covid-19 deaths, second only to the United States.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has regularly defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, gave his blessing to host the tournament.
Rumors the Selecao would boycott had Bolsonaro supporters attacking Tite as a “leftist” on social media.
A Globo journalist reported Caboclo had even promised Bolsonaro to fire Tite and replace him with a coach more closely aligned with the president.
Tite, who has been in the post since 2016, has a flawless record in the current World Cup qualifying campaign, with five wins in five matches.