SAO PAULO — The match between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup qualifiers, played this Sunday afternoon at Arena Neo Química, in São Paulo, was suspended five minutes into the first half, after officials from the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa ) entered the pitch to determine the deportation of four Argentine players who failed to comply with quarantine after passing through the UK. There was confusion with the arrival of federal agents and the Argentine team left the field in the aftermath. The Brazilian team took the opportunity to make a crack in half of the lawn.
Anvisa agents argued that four players from Argentina cannot exercise any activity in Brazil before going through quarantine as they were previously in the United Kingdom. Despite the determination of Anvisa, made public in the early afternoon, Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero were cast. Only Buendia did not enter the field. Anvisa ordinance determines that any traveler who passed through the United Kingdom must quarantine 14 days due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
— We reached this point because everything that Anvisa directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled. They were instructed to remain isolated to await deportation. But it was not fulfilled. They move to the stadium, enter the field, there is a sequence of non-compliances – said the director-president of Anvisa, Antonio Barra Torres, in an interview with TV Globo, recalling that, before, they had provided false information at the airport.
Acting president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Ednaldo Rodrigues said that the situation causes “indignation”, criticized the performance of Anvisa, but said that the CBF does not enter into “a health issue”. According to him, there were “Anvisa agents” at the stadium who released the role of the Argentines.
– Anvisa extrapolated in its decision. I could have avoided all this before (if I had booked the Argentines before the match); not after the game (having started) – said the manager, in an interview with SportTV.
According to Rodrigues, Anvisa agents “said they could let the (Argentine) athletes play, and after the game they would be deported immediately.”
The Argentine Confederation (AFA) credited the quartet’s selection to an agreement between the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) and all countries on the continent that frees athletes from being quarantined in official matches. Asked if the Conmebol agreement should not be fulfilled, Barra Torres said he had no knowledge:
— What I know about the health aspect is that these four players need to be deported from Brazil. The first infraction was not complying with isolation, the previous one, not responding reliably to the traveller’s questioning, and now playing. With more than 500 thousand dead, in the middle of the pandemic, the orders are being disobeyed at the behest of I don’t know who – said the director-president of Anvisa.
According to Barra Torres, the agency advised the Argentine national team that the players should be isolated in the hotel and that, still in the morning, it sent the Federal Police (PF) to issue the summons. In addition to being deported, athletes must be fined.
Players from Brazil and Argentina tried to talk to Anvisa officials to prevent the match from being interrupted, but to no avail. After the turmoil, Lionel Messi still returned to the field without his shirt, wearing a press vest, to talk to Brazilian athletes.
Tension was around the game even before the start. According to the daily “Olé”, upon being notified of Anvisa’s decision that the four players could not compete in the match, Conmebol pressured the CBF to comply with the quarantine release agreement. The South American top hats would have threatened to take the points away from Brazil if Argentina could not make the quartet and would also make the Brazilian team lose control in Thursday’s match against Peru (the match is scheduled to be played in Recife).