Brazil’s match with Argentina in World Cup qualifying descended into a farce after Brazilian health officials appeared on the pitch during the game – apparently in an attempt to deport four opposition players due to a breach of Covid regulations.
Covid rules in Brazil state that arrivals from the UK must quarantine for 14 days, prompting the country’s health regulator Anvisa to demand the immediate isolation of four players before kick-off who had not followed procedure.
However, officials waited until after the match had kicked off before taking action, appearing on the side of the pitch with just a handful of minutes played before confronting some players.
Although the four players were not named, Emi Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Emi Buendia all play for Premier League clubs. Brazil were without their Premier League stars.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi and his team-mates trooped off the field as confusion reigned over the fate of the game.
Messi later hit out at the intervention by Brazilian officials.
“We’ve been here for three days, why are you doing this just now?” he said on Argentina’s TyC network.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was similarly incensed, telling media that “at no time were we told that they could not play the game.”
Argentina were due to fly back to Buenos Aires later Sunday on a charter flight.
Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia said the federation had followed FIFA protocols for the game, pushing back at the claim that players had falsified entry records.
“It is not possible to speak of any lie,” Tapia said.
Brazilian officials were unrepentant about the decision to halt the game however.
South American football’s governing body CONMEBOL said in a statement that the game had been “suspended” but did not say when or if the match would be replayed, or whether either team would forfeit the game.
“By decision of the match referee, the match organized by FIFA between Brazil and Argentina for the qualifiers for the World Cup is suspended,” CONMEBOL said in a statement.
“The referee and the match commissioner will submit a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to follow. These procedures adhere strictly to current regulations.”
The controversy comes after nine Brazilians based in the Premier League failed to travel to South America following objections from their clubs.