The match was suspended with the score at 0-0 after players, coaches, football officials and local authorities argued for several minutes on the field. PSG teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar seemed visibly frustrated as the events unfolded.
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What was the confusion?
As the match reached its 7th minute, a slew of Brazilian health officials entered the field and interrupted the proceedings. Brazil’s health agency, Anvisa, said three of Argentina’s England-based players should have been in quarantine instead of playing in the match. According to Covid-19 protocols, those who have been in countries on Brazil’s red list face a 14-day quarantine after entering the country.
The players in the eye of the storm were Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero. Another player who came under the scanner was Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia, who did not start the match.
Antonio Barra Torres, the president of Anvisa, said that the four Argentina players would be fined and deported for breaching Brazil’s Covid-19 protocols.
The four had been ordered to quarantine by Brazil’s health agency ahead of the match. Despite that order, three of the four started for Argentina.
The health agency said all four allegedly told immigration officers that in the previous 14 days they hadn’t been to Britain or anywhere else that Brazil puts on its own red list for Covid-19 risks.
The four players traveled with the Argentine team to Venezuela on Thursday, and Martinez and Lo Celso played in the team’s 3-1 qualifying win over Venezuela. The Argentine team then traveled from Venezuela to Brazil and the players were in the country for three days prior to the match.
“We’re not talking about a lie or anything,” said the Argentine federation president Claudio Tapia, “because there are health rules under which FIFA qualifiers and all South American tournaments — Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana — are played and which all the health authorities of each country approved. It’s a protocol that is in effect and the 10 federations worked on together, and we’ve been complying with it.”
“The decision to interrupt the match was never within Anvisa’s reach. However, fielding players who did not comply with Brazilian laws and health norms, and also offered false information to authorities did require the agency to act, at its time and its way,” the Brazilian health agency said in a statement.
According to a TV Globo report, all four England-based players told Brazilian police that they did not fill their entry forms upon arrival at the airport. The report said the footballers were not deported and received permission to fly back with their team.
All the four England-based players joined the Argentina squad despite the Premier League not wanting players to be released for international duty because of the need to quarantine for 10 days in a hotel on their return.
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What are the Covid restrictions in Brazil?
A CNN report states Brazil has banned flights to and from the UK after the Alpha variant of Covid-19 was first detected in England — and nobody who has been in the UK in the past 14 days can enter the country, other than residents, family members of Brazilian nationals and some business travel. Brazil has also banned flights coming from or transiting through India and South Africa.
According to the report, if you take a flight to Brazil, before boarding, all arrivals must present a negative PCR test performed within 72 hours, and a traveler’s health declaration form to their airline before boarding (the airline will distribute the form). Children under two are exempt. Land and sea borders are closed to non-residents, unless enroute to fly home. In that case, travelers must get authorization in advance, present a note from their own embassy or consulate authorizing their crossing at the border, show the plane ticket and go straight to the airport. The majority of arrivals don’t have to be quarantined, but if you are traveling from the UK under the exceptions listed above, you must quarantine for 14 days upon landing in Brazil.