Incredible scenes at Sao Paulo’s Neo Quimica Arena, the match between the two giants of South American football was halted when Brazilian health officials ran onto the pitch, triggering a fight involving team officials and players from both sides.
Health authorities in Brazil said four England-based players in Argentina’s squad should be placed in “immediate quarantine” for breaching COVID-19 protocols.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, and Tottenham duo Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were on the Neo Quimica Arena pitch as part of the Argentine line-up when officials from Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa invaded the pitch and stopped the game around five minutes after kickoff.
The trio, along with Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia, who was in the stands, had reportedly breached Brazilian rules stating that travellers who have been in the UK, South Africa or India during the previous 14 days are forbidden from entering the country unless they are Brazilian citizens or have permanent residency.
The four players were accused of failing to disclose that they had spent time in the United Kingdom in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Brazil, where COVID-19 has claimed more than 580,000 lives.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi and his teammates trooped off the field as confusion reigned over the fate of the game.
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) September 6, 2021
No date for the rearranged fixture has been set with Argentina players leaving to prepare for their next World Cup qualifier – at home to Bolivia on Friday, 10 September.
Fifa will now gather evidence from all sides to fully understand the events that led to the match suspension before it decides on the most appropriate course of action.
Around one hour after the game was stopped and while Brazilian players organised an impromptu training session on the pitch, South American football’s governing body Conmebol said in a statement: “By decision of the match referee, the match organized by Fifa between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup Qualifiers is suspended.
“The referee and the match commissioner will submit a report to the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to be followed. These procedures strictly adhere to current regulations.”
Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the UK for 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
“We got to this point because everything that ANVISA directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled,” Antonio Barra Torres, director at Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa, said on Brazilian television, according to AFP.
“[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,” the official added.