Anvisa, the Brazilian Agency for Sanitary Vigilance, interrupted play in the game between Brazil and Argentina with just four minutes gone. The health authorities demanded that three Argentinean players leave the pitch, claiming they didn’t comply with the country’s quarantine legislation. All the players went to their locker rooms as the match was initially suspended, and then called off.

Messi and Neymar
Neymar (left) and Messi (right) were stunned by the events in Sao Paulo. (Image: marca.com)

The players coming from the English Premier League are accused of providing false information on their immigration forms and also of breaking COVID-19 laws. Before the start of the encounter, CONMEBOL, the South-American Football Association, was believed to have an agreement with both national teams. The continental FA wanted the teams not to field any player who was traveling from England.

At only four minutes into the game, Anvisa’s agents stopped play. Argentina had included three Premier League men in their starting 11. According to local reports quoted by Sky Sports, the Brazilian authorities asked to deport Lo Celso, Romero (both from Tottenham Hotspur), Martinez, and Buendia (both from Aston Villa). Apart from Buendia, who was on the bench, the other three were playing.

Players couldn’t believe what was happening in front of their eyes. Messi was heard complaining to those around him.

“We’ve been here for three days. Why are they doing this now?” – he lamented.

PSG colleagues Messi, Neymar, Paredes, and Di Maria exchanged sour smiles. Both teams retired to their locker rooms, with the referees following shortly. CONMEBOL confirmed that the game was called off as a consequence of the events in Sao Paulo, with the outcome of the whole situation still unclear.

CONMEBOL: ‘FIFA will decide what happens’

The South American Football Confederation issued a statement saying they will let FIFA decide the outcome of the ordeal.

“The referee and the match official will take a report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee and they will decide what steps to take,” CONMEBOL wrote in their message addressed to fans and journalists.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni was fuming after the surreal events he witnessed. “A match between some of the best in the world ends like this,” Scaloni told TyC Sports. “I would like people in Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to take care of my players. If people come and say they have to deport them, I will not allow it,” he said.

Ednaldo Rodriguez, the interim president of the Brazilian Football Confederation, said he wasn’t in favor of the decision taken by the health body. Through a statement, the Argentinean FA condemned the actions of Anvisa.

“It should be noted that the Albiceleste Delegation was in Brazilian territory since 3 September at 8 AM, complying with all current sanitary protocols regulated by Conmebol for the normal development of the Qualifiers heading to Qatar 2022,” the statement noted. “Football should not experience these kinds of episodes that undermine the sportsmanship of such an important competition.”

On Monday, FIFA addressed the situation. The World Football body says it “regrets the situation,” and is promising a thorough investigation into what happened.

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