SAO PAULO – A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was paused amid chaotic scenes after local health officials entered the field on Sunday to remove three players who were not abiding by coronavirus restrictions.
The game between the Argentine Lionel Messi and the Brazilian Neymar was canceled in the 7th minute due to the extraordinary interruption. The referee finally interrupted the game 0-0 after players, coaches, football officials and local authorities argued for several minutes on the field at the NeoQuimica Arena.
The Brazilian health authority said three of Argentina’s England-based players should have been quarantined instead of playing in the game. FIFA has to decide how to proceed with qualification.
Antonio Barra Torres, president of Brazil’s health authority Anvisa, said four Argentine players would be fined and deported for violating Brazil’s Covid-19 protocols.
The four had been quarantined by the Brazilian health authority before the game. Despite this order, three of the four started for Argentina.
Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia and Tottenham’s Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero joined the Argentine squad despite the Premier League not wanting players to be released for international assignments because they were quarantined in a hotel for 10 days on their return must be asked. Brazil’s quarantine restrictions have added another aggravating factor.
The Argentine Football Association tweeted the message “We’re going home!” On Sunday evening along with a picture of the team, including Emiliano Martinez and Buendia, boarding a flight to Buenos Aires.
TV Globo reported that the four England-based players told the Brazilian police at the airport that they had not completed their immigration forms on arrival. The report said the footballers were not deported and were given permission to fly back with their team.
The Brazilian health authority said all four allegedly told immigration officials that they had not been to the UK or any other place Brazil put on its own red list for Covid-19 risks in the past 14 days. Anyone who has stayed in countries on the so-called Red List is threatened with a 14-day quarantine in Brazil.
Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso started the game.
Anvisa had a meeting with regional and national football representatives on Saturday to discuss the quarantine situation.
“At that meeting, Anvisa and the local health authorities decided that the players should be quarantined,” Anvisa said. “But even after the meeting and reporting to the authorities, the players took part in training on Saturday evening.”
The agency added that attempts on Sunday to remove the players and take them to the airport were frustrating.
“The decision to stop the game was never within Anvisa’s reach. Field players who did not abide by Brazilian laws and health standards and who also offered false information to the authorities required the agency to act in their time and in their own way, “the Brazilian agency said.
Brazilian television showed several exchanges between players and coaches during the chaos. Brazil manager Tite appeared to be the most angry.
“You had 72 hours before the game. You had to do it at the time of the game! ”Tite yelled to the Anvisa agents.
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Lionel Messi also sounded confused. “They didn’t speak to us before,” repeated the Argentine captain.
Brazil nominated nine Premier League players to qualify for the World Cup in September, but none of them traveled to South America because of restrictions.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said both teams would have liked to play the game.
“A game between some of the best in the world ends like this. I want people in Argentina to understand that as a coach, I have to take care of my players. If people come and say they have to deport them, I won’t let them, ”Scaloni told TyC Sports. “We wanted to play the game, and so did the Brazilians.”
Both national football associations criticized the Brazilian health authority’s move. Brazilian players stayed on the field after Argentina left and started practice drills. Argentinians, including those considered a Covid 19 risk, stayed in their changing room for more than three hours before leaving for the airport.