It was a wild scene in São Paulo, Brazil on Sunday when a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was stopped just minutes into play when Brazilian health officials took to the field to object to three Argentine players that they say broke COVID-19 quarantine rules.
As play stopped and confusion reigned, most of the players left the pitch and headed to the locker rooms. Some of the coaches, as well as Argentina captain Lionel Messi, remained on the field to discuss what was happening.
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
Brazil vs. Argentina has been interrupted after Brazilian health officials walked on the pitch to confront the four Argentine Premier League players—Martinez, Buendia, Romero and Lo Celso—who traveled from the UK in the last 14 days & didn't quarantine, breaking Brazilian rules. pic.twitter.com/NNkJC7tPQe
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 5, 2021
Before the match, Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa had said that four players on the Argentina side needed to isolate and would not be allowed to play because they had arrived from the UK. Brazilian rules currently state that visitors who have been in the UK in the past 14 days must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in Brazil. Apparently, these four players had not given accurate info about where they were arriving from and had given “false” information on their immigration forms.
“Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil,” Anvisa said in a statement.
The specific players involved were identified as Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), and Cristian Romero (Tottenham), all of whom currently play in the Premier League.
Brazil already entered the match without nine key players as many of the European pro leagues and clubs have not allowed their stars to travel due to the pandemic and quarantine issues.
At the moment, Brazil is atop the South American qualifying group for Qatar 2022 while Argentina is six points behind them. The top four countries in the group qualify automatically for the World Cup in Qatar, and both nations will probably be in that mix regardless of what happens today.