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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 July, 2004, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
Football fever as Peru hosts Copa
By Hannah Hennessy
BBC correspondent in Lima

Latin America's version of Euro 2004, the Copa America, kicks off in Peru on Tuesday. The football-mad nation hopes staging the tournament will improve its international image, but others are not convinced:

Brazilian national football team player Alessandro Amantino (R), known as Mancini, of the Italian team Roma, carries the ball followed by team-mate
The Copa involves teams from 10 South American countries, plus Mexico and Costa Rica

It is the biggest sporting event held in Peru for over four decades. And in a country, where national games bring the streets to a standstill, the excitement is palpable.

In taxis, in bars, in the queue to pay electricity and phone bills, many of the conversations centre around the Copa America.

Shops are selling tournament T-shirts, restaurants have special meals and the street sellers are getting in on the act, selling hats, flags and T-shirts, saying Te Amo Peru (I love you Peru) in the national colours of red and white.

The tournament brings together teams from 10 South American countries, plus Mexico and Costa Rica, to venues in the capital, Lima, and six other cities.

Organisers say they expect 50,000 foreign visitors to come to Peru for the Copa America, bringing much needed money to a country where more than half the population lives in desperate poverty.

Strike fears

But the tournament has had its far share of problems.

Shaman Indians perform a ritual outside the National Stadium in Lima, in preparation for the Copa America
Excitement ahead of the tournament is palpable in Peru

In May, the venue for the opening match of the tournament and the final was moved following a row between directors.

Now there are fears a nationwide strike organised by Peru's largest workers federation with the backing of the main opposition party on 14 July could disrupt the tournament.

The protest is aimed at putting pressure on the Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to fulfil the promises he made before he was elected almost three years ago.

Ordinary Peruvians are angry Mr Toledo has not combated poverty or provided more jobs as he pledged to do.

With the support of less than 10% of Peruvians, Mr Toledo cannot really afford to let his popularity slip further, but neither can he afford to damage the image Peru projects to the rest of the world during the Copa America.




SEE ALSO:
South America set for Copa
05 Jul 04  |  World Football


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