FIFA investigating Brazil-Argentina abandonment after coronavirus fiasco

Premier League players Cristian Romero, Giovani Lo Celso, Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia were said to have breached Covid-19 regulations.

By Press Association Published: 6 September 2021 - 3.35pm

FIFA’s disciplinary department is analysing reports from the abandoned World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo before deciding what action will be taken.

The match was called off on Sunday amid extraordinary scenes as officials, believed to be from Brazil’s health authority, stormed on to the pitch shortly after kick-off over an alleged coronavirus breach by the visitors’ England-based players.

The Argentina team responded to the entrance of the officials and the police by walking off the pitch and down the tunnel.

According to ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency, Argentina’s four Premier League players – Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia – are alleged to have declared false information on official forms to the country’s authorities and in doing so broken quarantine rules.

South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL announced on Twitter that Sunday’s match had been suspended on the decision of the referee. His report and that of the FIFA match delegate have been sent to the governing body to consider its next steps.

“FIFA regrets the scenes preceding the suspension of the match between Brazil and Argentina for the CONMEBOL qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2022 which prevented millions of fans from enjoying a match between two of the most important football nations in the world,” a statement from FIFA read.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi walks off the field
Lionel Messi and his Argentina players walked off the field after the match was halted(Andre Penner/AP)

“The first match official reports have been sent to FIFA. This information will be analysed by the competent disciplinary bodies and a decision will be taken in due course.”

Spurs duo Romero and Lo Celso had started Sunday night’s match, along with Villa goalkeeper Martinez, but Buendia was not in the matchday 23.

ANVISA said it had been confirmed, following passport checks, that the four players “failed to comply with the rule for the entry of travellers on Brazilian soil” after declaring they had not passed through the UK in the last 14 days, which would have necessitated quarantining on arrival.

The situation was considered “a serious health risk”, with the local health authorities advised “to determine the immediate quarantine of players, who are prevented from participating in any activity and must be prevented from remaining in Brazilian territory.”

Argentina arrived in Brazil from Venezuela following their victory there on Friday and boss Lionel Scaloni said “at no time” were his squad told they could not play the match.

Following the suspension of the match, the Argentina national team posted a picture to Twitter of squad members on a plane on Sunday captioned “We’re going home!”

Having both played seven qualifying matches, Brazil remain top of the CONMEBOL standings, six points ahead of Argentina, with Ecuador three points back but after eight fixtures.

Both countries are set to be in action again on Thursday night local time (Friday morning in BST), when Argentina host Bolivia and Brazil take on Peru.

Argentina later confirmed Martinez and Buendia had been authorised to now return to Villa.

It had previously been agreed with the English club that the pair would not be involved against Bolivia, so as to minimise their period of unavailability after arriving back in the UK and needing to quarantine.

Villa host Chelsea on Saturday, so both men miss that fixture but should then be clear to play again for the visit of Everton on September 18.

Cristian Romero on a plane with his Argentina team-mates
Cristian Romero shared an image of the Argentina players on a plane (Instagram/cutiromero2)

Spurs duo Romero and Lo Celso did not have permission from their club to join up with Argentina, the PA news agency understands.

Top-flight and EFL clubs had announced they would not permit players to travel to countries on the UK Government’s proscribed Covid-19 list, prompting FIFA president Gianni Infantino to write to Prime Minster Boris Johnson to request exemptions, which were not forthcoming.

It is understood Tottenham are currently unsure when Romero and Lo Celso are due back, but the pair will be fined when they eventually return to club duties.

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