Officials in Rio de Janeiro have agreed to let thousands of COVID-19-tested spectators attend the Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina on Sunday morning at Maracana Stadium.
On Friday, Rio de Janeiro’s health secretary, Daniel Soranz, released guidelines allowing crowds of up to 10% in each sector of the 78,000-seat stadium. No tickets will be sold for the encounter. According to CONMEBOL, each side will be allowed to invite 2,200 people to the final on Friday. In the stadium, visitors will be obliged to wear masks and maintain a two-meter separation between them. Food and beverages will not be permitted.
In the previous Copa America final in 2019, Brazil defeated Peru 3-1 in front of roughly 60,000 people at the Maracana. The delayed 2020 Copa Libertadores final between Palmeiras and Santos drew roughly 5,000 fans to Maracana in January, but they were all packed in with little regard for social distancing guidelines.
In the rules, Soranz explained that the decision was made in response to a request from CONMEBOL, which stated that all spectators must have negative coronavirus testing to enter.
“There will be a great distance between people, and all the guests will be invited by CONMEBOL,” Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said in a news conference.
After Colombia and Argentina were withdrawn as hosts due to political and health concerns, Brazil decided to host the Copa America only two weeks before the tournament began. However, while the country is grappling with the pandemic, Brazilians have shown little interest in the event. COVID-19 has resulted in 530,000 deaths, while the latest estimates suggest that vaccine efforts are having an impact.
Thiago Silva, a Brazilian defender, applauded the inclusion of fans in the final, which is expected to bring more attention due to the team’s rivalry. “There is another context with 10% of the attendance. For those who had none before, it is a motivation, an environment returning to normal,” Silva said.
“We know it is not ideal, but it has to happen like in Europe, little by little.” said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is unlikely to attend Saturday’s final, who is a vocal opponent of social distancing measures. He claims that the pandemic’s economic impact kills more people than the virus itself.