A repeat of the Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina did not go as planned in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier at the NeoQuimica Arena in Sao Paolo. Brazilian health officials stormed the pitch to detain three Argentinian players who allegedly “didn’t comply with coronavirus restrictions”, Reuters reported.
The match was suspended at 0-0 after chaotic scenes as players, coaches, football officials and local authorities engaged in heated exchanges for several minutes on the field. Lionel Messi looked visibly frusteated with the events on the field, as he reportedly asked officials why they acted now as they had been in the country for at least three days.
Here is what you need to know about the incident:
What caused the chaos?
At the seventh minute of the match, a group of Brazilian health officials stormed the pitch and interrupted the proceedings. Anvisa, the Brazilian health agency, said that three Argentina players based in the England’s Premier League should have been quarantined upon arrival in Brazil.
According to the official COVID-19 protocols in Brazil, people travelling from a country on its red list for COVID-19 risks face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. The players in question were Tottenham Hotspur duo Christian Romero and Giovani lo Celso, Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
The former Arsenal shot stopper’s teammate Emiliano Buendia was also under the scanner, although he did not start the game.
Officials said the four players told immigration officers they had not been in England in the last 14 days or in any country in Brazil’s red list. They travelled with the Argentina squad to Venezuela, with Martinez and Lo Celso part of the Albiceleste’s 3-1 win over Venezuela.
“We’re not talking about a lie or anything,” Argentina federation president Claudio Tapia said “because there are health rules under which FIFA qualifiers and all South American tournaments — Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana — are played and which all the health authorities of each country approved. It’s a protocol that is in effect and the 10 federations worked on together, and we’ve been complying with it.”
Meanwhile, the decision to interrupt the match was “never within the reach” of Anvisa, the Brazilian health agency said, adding that they did need to act as Argentina fielded players who did not comply with Brazil’s laws and health norms and offered false information to authorities.
What are Brazil’s health protocols?
According to CNN, Brazil banned flights to and from the United Kingdom, since the emergence of the Alpha variant of COVID. Anyone who has been in the UK in the last 14 days cannot enter Brazil, with the exception of residents, their family members and some business travel.
Brazil has also banned flights from or transiting through India and South Africa.
What will happen next?
There is speculation that one of the teams might be punished for its role in the confusion. The final decision will lie with FIFA with the global football watchdog saying in a statement, “FIFA can confirm that following a decision by the match officials, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying match between Brazil and Argentina has been suspended. Further details will follow in due course.”
Reports suggest Argentina may get three points if the match is ultimately cancelled.
Both teams will next be in action on Thursday, with Brazil hosting Peru while Argentina will host Bolivia.