Brazil, Argentina match suspended over COVID-19 row
Neymar and Lionel Messi argue with the health officials after the Brazil, Argentina match was stopped
The World Cup qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina was suspended Sunday after Brazilian health officials marched onto the pitch to stop it.
The health officials stopped the match at Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo, after four Argentine English Premier league stars, failed to disclose to the immigration they were in the UK before coming to Brazil.
Britain is on Brazil’s COVID-19 red list.
Three of the players, Emi Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso all started the match for Argentina – despite being ordered to isolate for Covid-19 related reasons.
The fourth player Emi Buendia also travelled from England to play for Argentina.
He was not on Lionel Scaloni’s starting XI to face Brazil.
The match had gone on for about five minutes when officials with Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa walked on to the pitch at the Corinthians arena.
The players were surprised at the encroachment and the Argentines quickly left the field, although the two coaches, along with Argentina captain Lionel Messi and Brazilian players, gathered at the side of the pitch a few moments later to discuss the stoppage.
“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?” Messi said in comments heard on television.
“We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”
Messi then returned to the dressing room and at 5pm local time, an hour after the game kicked off, the match was officially suspended.
“The referee and the match official will take a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and they will decide what steps to take,” said a statement issued by the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL).
Under Brazilian rules visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Brazil’s health regulators were tipped off the four did not state that information on their immigration forms and on Sunday said they confirmed the details given were “false”.
“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.
Nevertheless, no action was taken and the three, along with Emiliano Buendia, were allowed to travel with the Argentine team from the hotel to the Corinthians arena.
Buendia and Martinez play for Aston Villa and Lo Celso and Romero are with Tottenham Hotspur.
The confusion comes amid continuing anger in South America at rules which have robbed several teams of key players for this month’s three World Cup qualifiers.
Brazil are without nine key men for Argentina game, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent.
They would have to quarantine on return and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.
Aston Villa said the two Emilianos had agreed to return to their club after the Brazil game and miss Argentina’s game against Bolivia on Tuesday.
The Argentine Football Association, however, said they would play all three games.
Brazil currently lead the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022, six points ahead of second-placed Argentina. The top four qualify automatically for Qatar.
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