BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – The cloud of ash spewing from a volcano in Chile grounded more flights Tuesday from Uruguay to Australia and threatened to delay the start of South America's soccer championship.
The schedule of next month's Copa America could be altered if the ash cloud from Chile's volcano keeps disrupting flights.
''We're watching it closely and it's for sure that teams are not ready to come to Buenos Aires,'' Julio Grondona, president of Argentina's soccer federation, told Argentine broadcaster Radio 10. ''The tournament starts July 1 and we hope that within five or six days the problems with the ash will not exist.''
The main international airports in Argentina and Uruguay were closed, and across the Pacific more Australian flights were canceled because of ash from Chile's Cordon Caulle volcano.
Organizers of the Copa America weren't the only ones worried. The club-level Copa Libertadores had talked of delaying Wednesday's match in Uruguay between Brazil's Santos and Uruguay's Penarol because of lack of flights, but the Brazilians managed to arrive Tuesday. The second leg is June 23 in Sao Paulo.
The Santos players had a special visitor ahead of the final - Pele. The Brazilian great stopped by the team's training center and talked to the players.
The final is a showdown between the two clubs that won the first four editions of South America's top club tournament. Santos is trying to win its third Copa Libertadores, the first since Pele was the team's biggest star in 1962 and '63.
All eyes will be on 19-year-old Santos forward Neymar, who is being compared with Pele. He has five goals in the competition and is usually a threat whenever he touches the ball, often breaking in from the wing and slicing through defenders.
Pele joked with Neymar about his Mohawk hairstyle, saying he was copying his hairdo from the 1958 World Cup. Pele showed an old magazine photo in which he was sporting the same hairstyle.
Neymar will team with midfielder Elano, both on Brazil's national team for the Copa America. The tournament opens July 1 in La Plata, Argentina, with the host facing Bolivia. The final is July 24 in Buenos Aires.
The governing body of South American soccer postponed the draw for the Copa Sudamericana - the continent's No. 2 club tournament - from Tuesday until Thursday. It said some club representatives were having trouble reaching Paraguay.
Associated Press writer Vicente L. Panetta in Montevideo, Uruguay, contributed to this report.