PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil – If fans are the beating heart of soccer, the 2019 Copa America as a slow pulse as its stadium looked nearly empty over the course of the first few days of the tournament, something that shows the limited interest the Brazilians have in the event.
The indifference looks even starker when compared with the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which broke the tournament’s fans attendance record with an average of 46,373 people cheering for their favorite teams in stadiums across the United States.
During the first five matches, officials recorded an average of 25,801 per match, nearly half of the average that was set three years ago, but it is similar to the 2015 edition held in Chile, where there were around 25,223 fans per match.
The big difference lies in the fact that the majority of Chile’s stadiums had a capacity of 15,000-30,000 fans and Nacional stadium, the biggest a 50,000-seater venue, while in Brazil the smallest Copa America arena, Arena Corinthians, is equipped to cope with 47,000 fans.
Under these circumstances, the atmosphere is cold and atypical, such that one can feel it is held behind closed doors, which is diametrically opposed to the fervor Latin American fans are known for.
It was obvious during Paraguay’s 2-2 draw against Qatar on Sunday, which was watched by fewer than 20,000 fans at the Maracana stadium, which set the attendance record in 1989 final when 150,000 turned up for the clash.
The Maracana capacity, however, has been reduced to only 74,000 fans.
At Mineirao’s 60,000-seater Belo Horizonte stadium, things were no different as only a little more than 13,000 fans watched Uruguay’s 4-0 rout to Ecuador on Sunday.
Only 13,000 people attended the Venezuela-Peru clash held at Porto Alegre’s Arena do Gremio, equipped to host 55,000 fans.
However, the situation was a little better in Colombia’s unexpected 2-0 win over Argentina, attended by over 35,000 fans at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova stadium.
The inaugural match drew more attention as 47,000 people witnessed Brazil’s 3-0 win over Bolivia at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium, although the arena was not fully packed.
The host’s upcoming match against Venezuela is not expected to fill the Arena Fonte Nova stadium, as tickets are still available online, despite being held in Salvador, one of the regions where the national team has the biggest support.
Since the beginning of the tournament, only the tickets of the July 7 final scheduled to be played at the Maracana were sold out.
“We want people to come and watch the best players in the world,” the president of the South American Football Confederation, Alejandro Dominguez said during a press conference held on Sunday.
However, the revenues seem to be good as the inaugural match set the record for the highest-grossing in the history of the Brazilian soccer with 22.4 million real ($5.7 million).
The rest of the matches also are above the revenues of the Brazilian league that its tickets are sold at lower prices.
The ticket prices could be one of the main reasons behind the low attendance as the cheapest ticket is sold for 60 reals ($15) for Brazilians and $30 for the foreigners.
Another reason is the succession of major sporting events Brazil has held; the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games as well as the recent disappointing results of the national team, having been handed a 7-1 rout by Germany in the 2014 World Cup.