Brazil and Argentina World Cup Qualifier was abandoned amid farcical, confused scenes after four Premier League players apparently violated Brazilian regulations designed to contain a Covid outbreak that has killed more than 580,000 Brazilians.
The World Cup qualifying match played between Brazil and Argentina was abandoned shortly after kick-off on Sunday. The reason stated was controversy over COVID-19 protocols violation erupted.
According to Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), Premier League players Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa) and Cristian Romero (Tottenham) provided “false information” upon their entry to Brazil.
Romero, Lo Celso and Martinez were in the Argentina starting line-up that kicked off Sunday’s game — prompting the surreal intervention of ANVISA officials. The four players had not disclosed their presence in the United Kingdom, 14 days prior to their arrival in Brazil.
The Argentina team trooped off the field as the confusion obstructed the fate of the game.
“We’ve been here for three days, why are you doing this just now?” he said.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was similarly incensed, telling the media that “at no time were we told that they could not play the game.”
Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia said the federation had followed FIFA protocols for the game, pushing back at the claim that players had falsified entry records. “It is not possible to speak of any lie,” Tapia said.
“We got to this point because everything that ANVISA directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled,” ANVISA director Antonio Barra Torres said. The four players “were directed to remain isolated while awaiting deportation, but they did not comply. They went to the stadium and they entered the field, in a series of breaches,” the official added.
A government order dating from June 23 prohibits the entry into Brazilian territory of any foreign person from the United Kingdom, India or South Africa, to prevent the spread of variants of the coronavirus.
“ANVISA considers that this situation represents a serious health risk and recommends that the local health authorities (of Sao Paulo) order the immediate quarantine of the players, who are prohibited from taking part in any activity and from remaining on Brazilian territory,” the agency said in a statement earlier Sunday.
With the game apparently abandoned, Brazil’s squad began a practice game on the pitch.
South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL said in a statement that the game had been “suspended” but did not say when or if the match would be replayed, or whether either team would forfeit the game.
“By decision of the match referee, the match organized by FIFA between Brazil and Argentina for the qualifiers for the World Cup is suspended,” CONMEBOL said in a statement. “The referee and the match commissioner will submit a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to follow. These procedures adhere strictly to current regulations.”
The controversy comes after nine Brazilians based in the Premier League failed to travel to South America following objections from their clubs.
(image credits: Wikimedia Commons)