A sermon in the Copa América: did Conmebol ignore the regulations?

Last Friday the Copa América 2024 began in the United States. Before the opening match, in which Argentina defeated Canada, the opening ceremony took place, an event that had a series of moments that drew powerful attention from the fans who saw him in the stands or from a distance. For example, the presence of an Argentine media journalist (Morena Beltrán, from ESPN) at the captains’ draw, invited by one of the tournament’s sponsors (a popular soft drink). Another situation caused as much or more strangeness: when the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta became, for a few minutes, a temple.

Two evangelical pastors spoke and gave a “message of peace” for the Cup. “God bless America. The message of Christ is still valid today. He called us to peace, understanding and forgiveness. He also told us ‘believe’, because for him who believes everything is possible”, was part of what was heard. This is an unprecedented event in any FIFA competition. One spoke in Spanish and another in English.

The person who gave the speech in the Spanish language was the Paraguayan pastor Emilio Agüero Esgaib. His presence was no coincidence. The religious man leads a church in his country called More than conquerors, attended by the president of Conmebol himself, his compatriot Alejandro Domínguez. In other words, Agüero is the leader of the church to which the top manager of South American football goes.

More than conquerors It is part of a neo-Pentecostal current. The link between the two is very close. In fact, the local press reports that last April, Agüero accompanied Domínguez at the groundbreaking for the Osvaldo Domínguez Dibb stadium, the deceased former leader of Olimpia and father of the president of the South American Football Confederation. The pastor is known in Paraguay for being a reference for the anti-gender movement, an enemy of abortion and trans people. Like Domínguez, he is close to former President Horacio Cartes and the Colorado Party, the political right of his country.

Along with the Conmebol helmsman, Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, was present at the event. Precisely, the fact of intermingle football with religion It is a topic in which the governing body of world football maintains a posture that goes towards neutrality, as well as on political issues. In that sense, what Conmebol allowed on Thursday night It would go against the regulations established by the International Association of Football Federation (and with Infantino in the stadium).

Article 4, in its 2nd paragraph, of the FIFA statutes says that “declares itself neutral in matters of politics and religion. Exceptions are contemplated in cases that affect the statutory objectives of FIFA.” In addition, it makes continental organizations and each country responsible for enforcing the rule and expose themselves to sanctions if they do not do so. This declaration of neutrality aims to maintain the activity as a “inclusive and apolitical” discipline, so that sporting events do not become platforms for political or religious propaganda.

Later, in article 23, which refers to the statutes of the confederations, it is stated that they “must comply with the principles of governance and, in particular, must include at least certain provisions relating to the following matters” , being letter a) the declaration of neutrality regarding politics and religion. In other words, the entities of each football region must propagate independence in these topics.

On the other hand, the Disciplinary Code of Conmebol (organizer of the event, although it is held in a country that belongs to Concacaf) also takes into account this type of issues. In Article 3, which sets out the Subjective Scope of Application, it is mentioned in point 2 that “The listed organizations and persons are subject to the disciplinary power of Conmebol, and must comply with and observe the statutes, regulations, decisions, orders and instructions of the different bodies and commissions of Conmebol, FIFA and IFAB.” It is evident that FIFA guidelines do influence the competition.

In the same document, article 11 touches on the Principles of Conduct. It is mentioned in letter e) of point 2 that it constitutes imputable behavior and punishable infraction. “using a sporting event to carry out demonstrations of an extra-sporting nature.”

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This sermon before Argentina – Canada did not go unnoticed. It caused a series of reactions, and much criticism. One was from former goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert, a confessed adversary of the policies of the Luque entity. “You cannot mix religion with football, but Corrupbol (Conmebol) is getting dirtier and more contaminated every day. “You (Pastor Agüero) support many corrupt people in Paraguay and harm the most needy in the country,” He launched the World Cup in France 1998 via X (ex Twitter) in his acidic style.

The day after the opening of the Copa América, Emilio Agüero spoke out on his X account, pointing out that he received “attacks.” “I apologize to the media who are trying to make a note of me. I will not do it at the request of my family. The attacks are intense and any word spoken, no matter how conciliatory, will only generate more hatred. I am not ashamed of the gospel, it is the Power of God for salvation,” posted the unexpected protagonist of day 1 of the oldest national team tournament in the world.

 
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