The 2022 World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina came to a halt following an unexpected interruption from the local health authorities.
The Argentina national team boarded a plane home just five hours after Brazilian health authorities threatened to arrest four of their players on Sunday.
A World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo ended in chaos before it even took off. Local health officials raided the pitch barely six minutes into the match. Their intervention caused the South American showdown to be suspended until further notice.
The health officials sought to reprimand three of four England-based Argentinians – Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso – on the pitch. The Brazilian government has accused the trio of falsifying travel information upon entry into the country and breaking COVID-19 laws.
The government advised the three players, and Martinez’s Villa teammate Emiliano Buendia, to isolate immediately and prepare for deportation.
Surreal: Brazil v Argentina stopped inside 7 mins by Brazilian Federal Police walking on field to detain 4 Argentinian Premier League players who failed to disclose they are based in Britain, breaking COVID protocols upon entering Brazil. Chaos ensued 🇧🇷🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/ANG5L61SaK
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) September 5, 2021
Messi’s angry words to officials
Lionel Messi, for one, was not impressed and pointed out how the Argentina squad had been in Brazil for three days, yet the government only intervened when the match itself began.
“We’ve been here for three days,” Messi told a group at the side of the field that included Brazilian players, the coaches of the national teams, and officials.
“Were they waiting for the match to start? Why not warn about this beforehand or at the hotel? They could have explained this and it would be sorted. Now, the world is watching.”
“Nos está mirando el mundo”, dice Messi. Y tiene razón.
El reclamo es unánime, porque no se hizo antes…
Jamás visto algo así. Es una mancha histórica. pic.twitter.com/1ZueKEaucT
— Martin Arevalo (@arevalo_martin) September 5, 2021
What did the Brazilian health authorities have to say?
Non-Brazilians coming from the UK, Northern Ireland, South Africa or India in the last 14 days cannot enter Brazil.
Brazil’s health agency, Anvisa, claimed the four players – Martinez, Romero, Lo Celso and Buendia – told immigration officers they hadn’t been in the UK or any other country on Brazil’s red list at that time.
In spite of this, Anvisa banned the players from partaking in any activities and ordered immediate isolation before deportation.
“It was necessary to keep our sanitary protocol,” said Antonio Barra Torres, the head of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency. “We called the federal police, that went to the hotel and we found out that they had already left for the stadium. The rest is what you’re watching live.”
After more than 5️⃣ hours of waiting, and 4️⃣ players under the threat of arrest, the Argentina national team has boarded its plane to leave Brazil 🛫
— Goal (@goal) September 6, 2021
What happened afterward?
The Argentina players walked off and entered the dressing room, while the Brazil squad stayed and did some training exercises instead.
Federal police escorted the Argentina squad out of the Neo Quimica Arena before the team boarded a plane home five hours later; still under the threat of detainment.