The two South American giants played just five minutes before the game ended in bizarre circumstances
Brazil and Argentina’s World Cup qualifier was thrown into chaos on Sunday when health authorities attempted to detain several members of the visiting team, causing the game to be suspended.
Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were cleared to play the World Cup qualifier despite being accused of falsifying travel information upon their entry to Brazil, with mandatory quarantine and deportation advised by the Brazilian government for the trio and reserve Emiliano Buendia.
The match had barely passed five minutes when scores of officers stormed the pitch, to the incredulity of both teams.
The game in Sao Paulo’s Arena Corinthians kicked off as scheduled on Sunday, with Brazil out for revenge after July’s Copa America final reverse.
Argentina’s Premier League trio had travelled with the rest of the squad to the stadium earlier in the day in spite of Brazilian health authority Anvisa’s statement forbidding them from partaking in any activities and ordering immediate isolation before leaving the country.
With five minutes gone, a number of plain-clothed police and health officers suddenly entered the playing surface to apprehend Martinez, Romero, Buendia and Lo Celso.
“It was necessary to keep our sanitary protocol,” said Antonio Barra Torres, the head of the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (via Rede Globo). “We called the federal police, that went to the hotel and we found out that they had already left for the Stadium. The rest is what you’re watching live.”
They were prevented from doing so by the players’ Argentina team-mates, causing an unseemly scuffle as the game was halted.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi promptly led his side back down the tunnel to the dressing rooms, and CONMEBOL confirmed the action would not re-commence.
Messi did emerge a few minutes later to consult with his Brazil counterparts, most of whom remained on the Arena Corinthians turf.
Health officials say they are still after the trio.
Why were the players pursued?
The wanted trio and Buendia came from the United Kingdom, which is one of the countries on Brazil’s own red list.
Under national law, foreign travellers from the country must complete 14 days’ quarantine once they have landed.
The Argentine Premier League contingent, however, only declared that they had been to Caracas, the site of the Albiceleste’s last World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, and did not reveal to immigration and health authorities that they had been in the UK.
While Martinez, Romero, Buendia and Lo Celso had received dispensation from their clubs to leave England other CONMEBOL nations were not so lucky, with Brazil losing nine of their squad for these qualifiers as a result of the division’s refusal to release players to red list countries.