I have seen a lot of crazy things take place on a football pitch, but today’s incident in Brazil during a World Cup qualifier between the host nation and their biggest rivals Argentina was a first for everyone in attendance.
Five minutes into the game the match was abandoned after Brazilian health officials objected to the participation of three Argentine players they believe broke quarantine rules.
The visitors walked off the pitch at the Corinthians Arena after the officials came out to stop the game.
The dramatic intervention came hours after Brazil’s health authorities had said four England-based players for Argentina had to quarantine.
Although it did not name the four, the players with English Premier League clubs are Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa, and Giovani lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham Hotspur.
Martinez, Lo Celso and Romero all started the game in Sao Paulo.
Fifa confirmed the suspension of the game, adding that “further details will follow in due course”
Around one hour after the game was stopped and while Brazilian players organized an impromptu training session on the pitch, South American football’s governing body Conmebol said in a statement:
“By decision of the match referee, the match organized by Fifa between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup Qualifiers is suspended.
“The referee and the match commissioner will submit a report to the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to be followed. These procedures strictly adhere to current regulations.”
Under Brazilian rules, visitors who have been in the UK in the 14 days before entering the country must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
“We got to this point because everything that ANVISA directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled,” Antonio Barra Torres, director at Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa, said on Brazilian television, according to AFP.
“[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.
Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni said it was disappointing a resolution could not be found before the game got under way.
“It makes me very sad,” he said. “I am not looking for any culprit. If something happened or did not happen, it was not the time to make that intervention.
“It should have been a party for everyone, to enjoy the best players in the world. I would like the people of Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to defend my players.
“At no time were we notified that they couldn’t play the match. We wanted to play the match, the Brazilian footballers too.”
Brazilian Football Confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues criticized the health officials for the timing of their intervention.
“I feel sorry for all the sports fans who wanted to watch the game on television,” he told Brazil’s Sportv.
“With all due respect to Anvisa, they could have resolved this earlier and not waited for the game to start.”