Soccer-Bolivia striker faces sanction after criticizing organizers

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - World Cup 2022 South American Qualifiers - Bolivia v Argentina - Hernando Siles Stadium, La Paz, Bolivia - October 13, 2020 Bolivia's Marcelo Martins celebrates scoring their first goal Juan Karita/Pool via Reuters

ASUNCION (Reuters) - The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) has opened disciplinary proceedings against Bolivian striker Marcelo Martins after he criticized the organization for hosting the Copa America amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

CONMEBOL's disciplinary committee has asked the Cruzeiro player to prepare a defense after his sharp words were posted on social media, a source within the organization told Reuters.

"Thanks for this CONMEBOL," Martins wrote on Instagram in a message he later deleted. "All the blame is totally yours. If someone dies what are you going to do??? The only thing that's important to you is MONEY. Is a player's life worth nothing?"

Martins was one of the Bolivian players who missed their opening 3-1 loss to Paraguay, because, local press said, he tested positive for COVID-19.

Five Bolivian players tested positive although their names were not revealed.

Martins is just the latest to criticize the decision to host the Copa America in Brazil, a nation where about half a million people have died after contracting the coronavirus.

The tournament was supposed to be held jointly in Colombia, which withdrew due to civil unrest, and Argentina, which pulled out when COVID-19 cases surged.

Brazil stepped in to organize the tournament with less than two weeks notice and already 33 players or officials with the 10 competing teams have tested positive.

(Reporting by Daniela DeSantis in Asuncion; Writing by Andrew Downie; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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