The Brazil vs Argentina World Cup qualifier match was called off on Sunday, barely nine minutes after kick-off at the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo, Brazil due to police interference.
Multiple Argentine players were escorted off the pitch by Brazilian health officials, bringing the much anticipated duel to a premature end.
Four Argentine players have been accused of violating Brazil’s COVID-19 protocol by withholding vital information upon arrival in the South American country.
CNN reported that the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) had asked for help from the country’s Federal Police to stop the responsible players from playing the match, for failing to include in their statement that they had been in the UK in the past two weeks. Brazilian Covid-19 regulations prohibit entry into the country for any passenger who visited the UK 14 days before arrival cannot enter the country.
“Anvisa considers the situation as a serious health risk, and therefore advised the local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of players, who are prevented from participating in any activity and must be prevented from remaining in Brazilian territory,” the organization said in a statement.
According to CNN affiliate CNN Brasil, Anvisa asked for the deportation of Emiliano Martínez, Emiliano Buendía, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero — all English Premier League players.
“Due to the decision of the game’s referee, the match organized by FIFA between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup qualifiers is suspended,” CONMEBOL announced via Twitter.
CONMEBOL continued, “The referee and the match delegate will raise a report to FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to follow. These proceedings will abide adhere to current regulations.”
FIFA confirmed on Twitter that the match had been suspended and that further details would “follow in due course.”
The Argentine national team posted a picture later of the players on board a plane on its Twitter handle with the caption; “We are going home.”
Argentinian Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia released a statement saying, “What happened today is really unfortunate for football, it’s a very bad image. Four people came on to interrupt the match to make a statement and CONMEBOL asked that the players go to the dressing room.
“Here, you can’t speak about any lying because there’s a health legislation that regulates every South American tournament. The health authorities of each country approved a protocol which we followed to the letter.”
Argentinian national team manager Lionel Scaloni added that the events that transpired made him “very sad” and that both teams wanted to play the match.
“This makes me very sad. I’m not looking for any guilty party,” Scaloni said in the statement, “Whether something happened or didn’t happen, it wasn’t the right moment to make that intervention.”
“It should have been a party for all involved, to enjoy the best players in the world. I would like that the Argentinian people understand that, as head coach, I have to defend my players,” Scaloni said. “At no moment did they notify us that that couldn’t play the match. We wanted to play the match, and so did the Brazil players.”
Brazil has recorded 583,362 COVID-19 deaths, coming third in the number of cases behind India and the United States as the pandemic rips through the world. The devastating spread of the virus in Brazil has been blamed on lax measures by the country’s authorities. Now they have adopted stricter measures to quell the surge, including restricting entry for travelers from countries with rising cases.
It is not clear what action Fifa or the Brazilian authorities are going to take against the players. The pandemic severely impacted football activities around the world last year, totally halting games for months as countries announced restrictions to contain the virus. Football activities resumed with indoor games that completely erased fans participation, heightening the financial crisis brought to the football world by the pandemic.