LONDON: Copa Libertadores, South American football’s premier club competition, kicks off this week after a six-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic but the restart has caused complaints and consternation in a region where the sport is not yet fully up and running. A total of 32 teams from 10 countries will play matches in the Copa Libertadores on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, even though domestic football is still to restart in three of them, including regional giant Argentina. “Argentine teams have been called upon to compete at a disadvantage and they are not ready for it,” said Nicolas Russo, the president of Lanus and a director of the Argentine Football Association. The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) is celebrating the return of the continent’s equivalent of the Champions League, and its second-tier competition the Copa Sudamericana, the South American version of the Europa League that will restart on October 27. But with different nations restarting their domestic programmes at different times –––- Brazil restarted in June; Colombia kicked off at the weekend; Argentina won’t begin until at least October ––– some teams are crying foul. All games will take place behind closed doors but with infection rates still high – more than half of all recorded COVID-19 cases are in the Americas as per the World Health Organisation – there is a fear that flying teams of players across the enormous continent risks spreading the virus. CONMEBOL struck a deal with national governments aimed at reducing risk, with the organisation paying for charter flights and demanding that teams spend no more than 72 hours in foreign nations. However, hardly a week goes by without a team reporting positive tests for their players. One league game in Brazil was called off minutes before kick off last month when players tested positive for the virus. The entire league program in Peru was suspended temporarily when fans gathered outside stadiums. Boca Juniors recently found that 22 of their players, or almost all of the first team squad, tested positive for the virus. The players self-isolated and returned to training last week, a move that further hampered the clubs preparation for its match in Paraguay against Libertad. CONMEBOL has allowed each team to register 50 players for the competition, up from the usual 30, in a sign that it expects more positive tests to occur.