Curacao were forced to withdraw from the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Friday less than 24 hours before their opening fixture after a Covid-19 outbreak in the team’s camp, organisers said.
A statement from CONCACAF confirmed that the island nation had been pulled out of the tournament after a “significant number” of staff and players had tested positive for coronavirus.
Curacao, who were due to play El Salvador on Saturday in the opening game of the 16-nation championship for teams from Central America, North America and the Caribbean, will be replaced by Guatemala.
CONCACAF said Curacao, who are coached by former Ajax and Netherlands striker Patrick Kluivert, had undergone several rounds of Covid-19 testing ahead of Saturday’s game in Frisco, Texas, in suburban Dallas.
After several staff and players returned positive results, all individuals concerned had entered isolation immediately.
“Although several Curacao players returned a negative test result, local state guidelines require several of them to isolate due to being close contacts of those who tested positive,” CONCACAF said.
“In light of these circumstances, CONCACAF and the Curaçao Football Federation have mutually agreed that Curacao will not participate in the Gold Cup.
“The health and safety of the Curaçao players and staff, and all participants in the tournament, must be prioritized.”
The withdrawal is another Covid-19 setback for Curacao. Kluivert only stepped in as caretaker head coach after former Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink was struck down by coronavirus.
Curacao’s withdrawal also marks another troubled turn for the tournament build-up.
Last week Cuba were forced to withdrawn from preliminary rounds due to “Covid-19 related travel and visa challenges”, CONCACAF announced.
The tournament has also lost some of its lustre due to the United States opting to field a virtual second string team for the competition, with most of the country’s Europe-based players rested.
Earlier Friday, Canada confirmed that Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies would also miss the tournament due to an ankle injury.