Just five minutes after kickoff at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena, officials from the health authorities entered the pitch to announce the game could not continue because of a breach of the country’s quarantine protocols by four of Argentina’s Premier League based-players.
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“Listen to me, we’ve been here [in Brazil] for three days,” Messi said on the pitch, with his comments heard on television. “Were they waiting for the game to start to come here? Why didn’t they warn us before?”
Lo Celso, Romero and Martinez were included in Argentina’s starting lineup. Under Brazilian rules, visitors from the UK entering the country must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
In a statement, Anvisa accused the players of providing “false” information on their health forms and considered their presence in Brazil “a serious health risk” and advised for the immediate quarantine of those players.
Brazil’s Football Confederation (CBF) was “absolutely surprised” by Sunday’s events and said in a statement that Avinsa could have acted “days earlier” and not after the game had started.
“The CBF reiterates its disappointment with the event and awaits the decision by CONMEBOL and FIFA with regards to the game,” a statement said.
Avinsa director Antonio Barra Torres claimed the players in question were notified prior to the game that they had to isolate and did not do so.
“They had to remain isolated in the hotel until they could return to their country, but instead they went to the stadium to play the game,” he said. “We informed the players that they had to comply with these regulations. They did not do so.”
Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia, whose squad returned to Buenos Aires in the early hours of Monday, said his players have followed all the health protocols set by CONMEBOL.
He said in a tweet on Sunday: “As AFA president, I am very sorry for the suspension of what was to be a party for South American football.
“We have always been guided by the current CONMEBOL health legislation. We await the resolution of FIFA’s Disciplinary Court.”
He added: “Four people interrupted the game for something that we do not understand.
“There is a health legislation through which all tournaments are played, in which the authorities of each country approve a protocol that is in force and signed by the 10 associations, and that we follow to the extreme. What happened is unfortunate for football, a very bad image for the world.”
On Monday, The AFA also announced that Martinez and Buendia had been released from the national team, meaning they will not take part in Friday’s qualifier against Bolivia.
FIFA released a statement on Monday and said it has received the first match official reports and “a decision will be taken in due course, while FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the situation was a reminder of the difficulties the organisation had been facing during the pandemic.
Infantino said in a video address to the European Club Association’s general assembly: “We saw what happened with the game between Brazil and Argentine, two of South America’s most glorious teams. Some officials, police, security officials entered the pitch after a few minutes of the game to take away some players — it is crazy but we need to deal with these challenges, these issues which come on top of the COVID crisis.”
Information from Reuters was included in this report.