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FOOTBALL

Qualifier Brazil v Argentina suspended over Covid-19 rule breach

The president of the Argentinian football federation, Claudio Tapia, said what happened "is unfortunate for football"
From right, Argentina's players Nicolas Otamendi, Giovani Lo Celso and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez walk off the field during the first half of their qualifying soccer match against Brazil for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Sept.5, 2021. Federal police and health agency officers interrupted the South American classic after six minutes of play in an operation that investigates the irregular entry of four players of Argentina into the country. Photo: Andre Penner/PA Wire/dpa
Argentina's players walk off the field during the first half of their qualifying soccer match against Brazil. Photo: Andre Penner/dpa.

The World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina in Sao Paulo on Sunday was suspended due to a breach of Brazilian coronavirus restriction rules.

In extraordinary scenes, health officials entered the pitch early in the game to object the participation of three Argentinian players who have allegedly broken the coronavirus travel rules by providing false information in the entry form, according to Antonio Barra Torres, the president of the Brazilian health regulatory agency Anvisa.

"By decision of the referee, the match between Brazil and Argentina at the World Cup Qualifiers organized by FIFA is suspended," South American ruling body CONMEBOL said, adding that world governing body FIFA will decide what's the next step.

The president of the Argentinian football federation (AFA), Claudio Tapia, said what happened "is unfortunate for football.

"Four people entered [the pitch] to interrupt the game with a notification and CONMEBOL asked the players to go to the locker room," he said.

Anvisa had previously asked the federal police to send away Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso due the Covid-19 regulations breach.

However, just before the match, the AFA and the Brazilian government reached an agreement and the players were allowed to take part in the game.

Torres denied the agreement, insisting: "These players must be deported."

According to news portal G1, the federal police tried to reach the players in the hotel and then in the locker room, but were not allowed by AFA.

Premier League

The four are from the English Premier League and travellers are not allowed to enter Brazil if they have been in the country in the 14 days prior to the trip.

"We got to this point because they did not comply with the Anvisa guidelines," Torres said.

Anvisa said in a statement released before the game it had asked the federal police to "take action immediately."

"Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk, and therefore advised the local health authorities to order the immediate quarantine of the players, who are prevented from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining in Brazilian territory," the agency said.

Before travelling to Sao Paulo the players declared they were in Venezuela.

But Anvisa said it was informed by non-official sources that this statement was not true.

"After meeting with health authorities, it was confirmed, following a passport check of the four players involved, that the athletes disrespected travelling rules," Anvisa said.

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