Sao Paulo (AFP) – Brazil’s World Cup qualifying clash against Argentina was dramatically suspended shortly after kick-off on Sunday as controversy over Covid-19 protocols erupted.
Amid incredible scenes at Sao Paulo’s Neo Quimica Arena, the match between the two giants of South American football came to a halt when a group of unidentified officials came onto the pitch, triggering a melee involving team staff and players.
Argentina’s players trudged off the pitch to the locker room as the furore arranged.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi later re-emerged from the tunnel without his team shirt on as confusion swept around the stadium.
The stunning intervention came just hours after Brazil’s health authorities said four players in Argentina’s squad based in England should be placed in “immediate quarantine” for breaching Covid-19 protocols.
According to Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), Premier League players Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa) and Cristian Romero (Tottenham) provided “false information” upon their entry to Brazil.
Romero, Lo Celso and Martinez were all in the Argentina starting line-up that kicked off Sunday’s game.
However the four Premier League players were accused of failing to disclose that they had spent time in the United Kingdom in the 14 days prior to their arrival.
A ministerial order dating from June 23 prohibits the entry into Brazilian territory of any foreign person from the United Kingdom, India or South Africa, to prevent the spread of variants of the coronavirus.
“ANVISA considers that this situation represents a serious health risk and recommends that the local health authorities (of Sao Paulo) order the immediate quarantine of the players, who are prohibited from taking part in any activity and from remaining on Brazilian territory,” the agency said in a statement.
ANVISA said Brazil’s Federal Police had been notified so that “the necessary measures are taken immediately”.
Brazilian website Globoesporte said the Argentina Football Association (AFA) could request an exceptional authorization from authorities in Sao Paulo to allow the players to take the field against Brazil.
The controversy comes after nine Brazilians based in the Premier League failed to travel to South America following objections from their clubs.
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