BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ The America Cup soccer tournament has been postponed until next year but will still be held in Colombia, the South American Soccer Confederation said after an emergency meeting to address fears that the war-torn nation is too unsafe to hold the championship.
Colombia's role as host nation for this year's cup, which had been scheduled for July 11-29, was called into question after guerrillas kidnapped a top Colombian soccer official. The official, Hernan Mejia, was later released and flew to Buenos Aires to urge soccer officials not to change the location of the tournament.
``They postponed it on us but they did not take it away,'' Mejia said after the meeting Saturday.
The cup is normally held every two years, with the location rotating among the member nations. Staging the cup is a symbol of national pride and self-esteem.
Colombian President Andres Pastrana had invested tremendous effort in convincing soccer authorities that his country was safe enough to handle the multimillion dollar event. More than 20,000 police officers, bomb-sniffing dogs and sharpshooters had been pledged to guarantee security in the seven city sites during the tournament.
Had the confederation moved the event elsewhere, it could have had political costs for Pastrana.
``If they were to take away the cup, it would have been a green light to terrorism,'' said Alvaro Fina, the president of Colombia's soccer association. He pointed out that Argentina had played host to the World Cup in 1978 while under a military dictatorship.
Confederation president Nicolas Leoz announced the decision Saturday after a 2 1/2 hour meeting of the presidents of South America's 10 national soccer associations.
The abduction and bombings in recent weeks in Colombia stirred up fears that the country, where rebels have waged a nearly four-decade war against the government, would be unable to guarantee security during the continent's top sporting event.
Nine of the 10 confederation member-nations called for a change of site after Mejia, the 66-year-old vice president of the Colombian Soccer Federation, was abducted Monday. Appeals to the rebels brought Mejia's release on Thursday.
On Friday, Colombian soccer federation president Alvaro Fina had insisted he had the backing of six nations. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, however, were reported to be wary.
The America Cup, soccer's oldest international championship, was founded in 1916. Since 1989 it rotates among the member-nations by roster. Colombia last staged the trophy in 1947.