Brazilian public health officials storm football pitch detain four players during Brazil’s World Cup qualifier versus Argentina match
Brazilian public health agents and federal police officers were milling around on the touchline seemingly trying to identify Giovani Lo Celso, Emi Martinez, Cristian Romero and Emi Buendia.
The four Argentina internationals based in the Premier League had, according to the authorities, entered Brazil illegally.
As reported exclusively by Sportsmail last week, they had falsified documents, failing to declare they had come from the UK and should be deported or at least in quarantine, in line with Brazilian Covid protocol.
Within an hour, the game had been formally abandoned while still goalless. A statement from South American football governing body read: ‘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.
‘The World Cup Qualifiers is a FIFA competition. All decisions concerning its organization and development are the exclusive power of that institution.’
Suddenly, the questions and the accusations flew, including from Argentina captain Lionel Messi.
According to RMC Sport, Argentina’s biggest star was heard saying: ‘We’ve been here for three days, we were waiting to play the match, why didn’t you come earlier? This is a mess, we’re off!’
Who was in the right? Who was in the wrong? Was this foul play? Argentina certainly thought so as they refused to return to complete the game. Should it be rescheduled? If so, when? The season is already terribly congested. If so, would the Premier League quartet be involved?
‘It makes me very sad,’ said Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni. ‘If something happened or did not happen it was not the time to make this 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 could not play the match. We wanted to play the game, the players from Brazil too.’
This was a meeting between bitter South American rivals like no other, back in Brazil just nine weeks after the Copa America final at the Maracana, when Argentina won 1-0 and ended a 28-year wait for a major trophy.