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  06 Sep 2021, 12:32

Uproar as Brazil v Argentina clash abandoned following Covid controversy

  SAO PAULO, Sept 6, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Brazil's World Cup qualifying clash
against Argentina was sensationally abandoned 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 was halted when Brazilian health
officials ran onto the pitch, triggering a melee involving team officials and
players from both sides.

  The stunning intervention came just hours after health authorities in
Brazil said four England-based players in Argentina's squad 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 -- prompting the surreal intervention of ANVISA
officials.

  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 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.

  - 'Series of breaches' -

  Brazilian officials were unrepentant about the decision to halt the game
however.

  "We got to this point because everything that ANVISA directed, from the
first moment, was not fulfilled," ANVISA director Antonio Barra Torres said
on Brazilian television.

  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.

  A government 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 earlier Sunday.

  The agency also said Argentina's delegation had been warned in a meeting on
Saturday that the players at the centre of the controversy must be
quarantined and should not play any part in Sunday's game.

  With the game apparently abandoned, Brazil's squad began a practice game on
the pitch.

  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.

 

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