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5 Sep, 2021 19:55

‘FARCE’: Brazil vs Argentina World Cup qualifier ABANDONED after authorities storm pitch ‘to deport players who didn’t quarantine’

‘FARCE’: Brazil vs Argentina World Cup qualifier ABANDONED after authorities storm pitch ‘to deport players who didn’t quarantine’

The World Cup qualifying match between Brazil and Argentina was called off in remarkable circumstances amid a row over a set of Argentine players who local health authorities insisted should be in quarantine.

Argentine stars Emiliano Buendia, Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero apparently breached quarantine rules after arriving into Brazil for the fixture having been in England in the past two weeks. 

Three of the quartet were named in the Argentine starting XI which took to the pitch in Sao Paulo for Sunday’s game with Brazil. 

Amid bizarre scenes around five minutes after the match kicked off, health officials were seen entering the pitch as the action was stopped.

Led by skipper Lionel Messi, Argentina then took to the dressing room.

Dressed in a bib, Messi later emerged in discussion with Brazilian former Barcelona teammate Dani Alves and numerous officials as confusion reigned over whether the match would continue.

But after Messi walked off again, it appeared the match was in danger of not going ahead despite the Brazil team remaining on the pitch in full kit.

As the Brazilians continued to conduct an impromptu training session among themselves, it was reported that the match was set to be called off. 

‘FARCE’: Brazil vs Argentina World Cup qualifier ABANDONED after authorities storm pitch ‘to deport players who didn’t quarantine’

While Emi Buendia had not been named in the Argentina squad for Sunday's game, he had traveled to Corinthians Arena along with the three fellow players from English Premier League clubs  – Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero – all of whom had been included in the starting team named by manager Lionel Scaloni.

Their presence posed a problem as the Brazilian health authority includes the UK on its Covid red list, meaning a mandatory period of 14 days’ quarantine for anyone who has been in Britain within the two weeks prior to their arrival. 

According to some reports, Argentina’s Premier League quartet had only declared that they had been to Caracas, where they played their last World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, and had not mentioned they had been in Britain.

"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," Brazilian health regulator Anvisa had said in a statement prior to kick-off.

Questions have been raised as to why the players were allowed to travel freely to the stadium in the first place, with three of them lining up and starting the match before the health authorities dramatically intervened. 

Two of the quartet of players in question – Buendia and Martinez – play at Aston Villa, while the other pair – Romero and Lo Celso – play their club football at Tottenham Hotspur.  

“It makes me very sad. I’m not looking for any culprits. Whether or not something happened, it was not the time to make that intervention,” Argentina manager Scaloni was quoted as saying.

“It should have been a party for everyone, to enjoy the best players in the world. I would like the people of Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to defend my players.

“At no time were we notified that they could not play the match. We wanted to play the game, the players from Brazil too.”

Countering the Argentine anger, the director at Anvisa, Antonio Barra Torres, said"We got to this point because everything that Anvias directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled.

"[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."

Adding to the overall confusion, the fate of the four Argentina players in question was not immediately clear after Sunday's remarkable events. 

The current international break has been hit by widespread rows between countries, clubs and national football authorities.

Some clubs – including in the English Premier League – have refused to let international stars jet off for fixtures, knowing that they could lose them due to periods of quarantine when they return. 

Brazil were without numerous key players for their clash with their arch South American rivals on Sunday, after nine English-based players were stopped from traveling. 

The situation had even led to FIFA boss Gianni Infantino petitioning UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act, but to no avail.  

Also on rt.com ‘A matter of great urgency and importance’: FIFA boss Infantino petitions UK government to exempt players from red-list quarantine