Coronavirus should not leave South America without football this year, says president of Conmebol


ASUNCIÓN, Apr 2 (Reuters) – The 2020 Copa Libertadores, suspended by the coronavirus outbreak, should resume this year even though the matches have to be played without an audience, Conmebol president Alejandro Domínguez said Thursday.

Domínguez said in an interview with Reuters that he sees “tremendously distant” the possibility of definitively suspending the club tournament that brings together the best teams in South America, which was interrupted during the group stage when the governments of the region began to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The Libertadores could be reactivated to the extent that the local championships do so, although transport capacity is also important since most of the countries have closed their borders,” said the leader.

Definitively suspending it “was not handled and it is something that I see tremendously distant. I am optimistic,” he added.

Conmebol analyzes asking FIFA to postpone the start of the Club World Cup scheduled for December 2020 in Qatar in order to extend the Libertadores calendar.

The South American tie for the next World Cup, whose start was also postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, would start in September and could extend until April 2022 if the governing body of world football so authorizes, Domínguez said.

The leader, who led a Conmebol Congress by video conference on Thursday, said losses to the stoppage of soccer activities so far are minimal.

“We have been fulfilling all the obligations and we plan to continue doing so. All of our sponsors continue to be firm with this project,” he said, adding that almost 90% of the clubs that dispute the Libertadores and Sudamericana cups adhered to a proposal by the Conmebol de advance a payment for participation to have a financial break.

Domínguez also said that he could not imagine what post-pandemic soccer will be like.

“It is difficult for me to do the analysis because we are still very shocked. I think things will return to normal, although it will take time. Of course I want to see the stadiums full, but if the way to revive football is to play without an audience, that’s how we will play, “he said.

(Report by Daniela Desantis. Edited by Rodrigo Charme)