Copa America organizers worried over empty seats in Brazil

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              Paraguay's Derlis Gonzalez covers his face after his side's 2-2 draw with Qatar in a Copa America Group B soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, June 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The head of South America’s soccer governing body is worried about empty seats at the Copa America tournament in Brazil. Some players have said they can comfortably hear instructions from their coaches on the sidelines.

CONMEBOL President Alejandro Dominguez said Sunday he believes the attendances will improve as the tournament advances.

More than 46,000 fans paid an average of $125 per ticket at Brazil’s opener against Bolivia, but at least 22,000 seats were empty at the Morumbi Stadium for a match that organizers initially said was a sellout.

Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Qatar and Paraguay saw 20,000 fans at the 87,000-seater Maracana.

The two matches played on Saturday also brought disappointing attendances. Only 11,000 were at Porto Alegre’s 60,000-seater Arena do Gremio to watch the 0-0 draw between Peru and Venezuela. Later that day, 35,000 fans were at 50,000-seater Fonte Nova to watch Lionel Messi’s Argentina lose 2-0 to Colombia in Salvador. Organizers said before the match it was sold out.

“It worries us, of course it worries us,” Dominguez said after a CONMEBOL event in Rio de Janeiro, adding “I think it will improve.”

The attendance at Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium also looked small for Uruguay vs Ecuador on Sunday night.

Brazil’s TV Globo commentator Luis Roberto said “it is not that people don’t want to be here,” and singled out ticket prices, with even the cheapest ones at $30 around double the price of tickets for Brazilian national championship matches.

Brazil’s minimum wage this year is at $256, with little change in comparison with previous years because of the country’s enduring economic crisis. More than 13 million people are unemployed in the Copa America host nation, far worse than when it staged the 2014 World Cup.