A World Cup qualifying match between Brazil and Argentina was stopped after only a few minutes after Brazilian authorities attempted to detain four Premier League players for failing to quarantine.
The high-profile match at the Neo Quimica Arena in Sao Paulo on Sunday evening, which featured Lionel Messi and Neymar among a star-studded cast, was interrupted by health officials and police spilling on to the pitch in farcical scenes after an argument erupted on the sidelines, and the game was eventually abandoned.
Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were the four Argentinian players accused of flouting travel restrictions to play in the match, and the latter trio all started the game. Earlier in the day the Brazilian authorities had said the quartet would need to quarantine, having travelled from England.
Brazil’s health authority, Anvisa, said in a statement before the game: “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.”
They then attempted to prevent the game going ahead but Argentina refused to comply, locking themselves in their dressing room before kick-off.
Visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering Brazil must quarantine for 14 days on arrival unless they gain special exemption.
Argentina left the stadium soon after the turmoil, while the Brazilian players returned to the pitch to put on a training session to entertain the fans who remained.
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said: “It makes me very sad. I’m not looking for anyone to blame. Whether or not something happened, it was not the time to make that intervention [during the game]. It should have been a celebration 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, as did the players from Brazil.”
The South American Football Confederation Conmebol announced that the match had been suspended and the referee and match delegate would now provide a report for Fifa’s disciplinary committee, which would decide what action to take.
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