Lionel Messi fury as Brazil vs Argentina is abandoned over quarantine row

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Lionel Messi voiced his anger as his side’s World Cup qualifier with Brazil was abandoned amid farcical scenes in Sao Paulo after health officials invaded the pitch in an attempt to deport Argentina players who were accused of breaking coronavirus restrictions.

Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, and Aston Villa’s goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez were part of the Argentina XI when officials from Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa stopped Sunday’s game in an extraordinary intervention after only five minutes.

Those three, along with Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia, who was in the stands, should have been in quarantine say Anvisa as Brazil orders travellers who have been in the UK during the previous 14 days to isolate for two weeks on their arrival in the country.

The referee eventually suspended the game with the score at 0-0 after players, coaches, football officials and local authorities argued for several minutes on the field.

"Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?" said Argentina captain Messi in comments heard on television. "We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us."

The Paris Saint-Germain forward and the rest of the players returned to the dressing room, and the match was then officially suspended an hour after it kicked off.

FIFA will now decide what happens next with the qualifier.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Anvisa claimed it had issued ample warnings that the four Argentines were in contravention of Brazilian health regulations.

Argentine officials were told on Saturday the four should isolate and when the instructions were ignored, Anvisa asked Brazilian federal police to enforce the isolation ruling on Sunday morning, the regulator said.

Those attempts were "frustrated," Anvisa said in a statement issued late on Sunday.

Brazilian Football Confederation president Ednaldo Rodrigues said he was “indignant” with the scenes that reverberated around the football world.

And Rodrigues criticised Anvisa and said officials told him the Argentines who breached the country’s COVID-19 rules could have been deported after the game.

“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.”

A shell-shocked Argentine coach Lionel Scaloni agreed.

“It makes me so sad, I am not looking for guilty parties, whatever happened or didn’t happen, this wasn’t the time to do it,” he told Argentine broadcaster TyC Sports.

“We wanted to enjoy a game between the best in the world and it ends up like this.”

“As a coach I am going to defend my players. If people come and say we want to take this guy or deport this guy there was no chance of that," he said. "Because at no time were we told we couldn’t play the game."

In a statement Anvisa said it had received reports that the four Argentine players had provided “false information” on their pre-flight health declarations.

"Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil," Anvisa said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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