Inspectors from the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) literally took to the field this Sunday to interrupt the match played between Brazil and Argentina for the Qatar World Cup qualifiers. This Sunday morning, Anvisa had informed through a note that four of the Argentine players “did not comply with the rule for the entry of travelers on Brazilian soil”. Emiliano Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso, Cristian Romero and Emiliano Buendía were in the UK in the last 14 days, as they play in the Premier League. According to Brazilian regulations, they should have respected a quarantine when arriving in Brazil, as well as travelers from South Africa, Northern Ireland and India. As they did not, Anvisa called the Federal Police, as these athletes “are prohibited from participating in any activity and must be prevented from remaining in Brazilian territory.”
Unofficial information reveals that the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) mediated an agreement with the Brazilian federal government to allow the game to take place. The Argentine team took the field at 4 pm with three of the four players identified by Anvisa —only Emiliano Buendía was left out, including from the bench —, certain that the Brazilian authorities were satisfied with the outcome. Clearly they weren’t, and ANVISA agents entered the field five minutes into the game and put pressure on the Argentines until the match was stopped. The Argentine team left the field, while the Brazilian team kept its position, so as not to run the risk that the organization of the tournament would consider that it had abandoned the game.
About an hour after the interruption of the match, Conmebol released a note to say that “by decision of the referee of the match, the match organized by FIFA between Brazil and Argentina for the World Cup qualifiers is suspended.” “The referee and match committee will report to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which will determine the steps to be taken. These procedures strictly comply with local regulations”, follows the bulletin. “The World Cup qualifiers are a FIFA competition. All decisions relating to its organization and development are the exclusive responsibility of that institution”, concludes Conmebol’s statement.
In an interview with the Sportv channel, the acting president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), Ednaldo Rodrigues, lamented what had happened. “Everyone was scared. An episode of this type is regrettable, in a Brazil and Argentina game, which arouses the interest of the whole world”. According to him, “at no time did the CBF have any participation” in the attempt to make the game viable. “Three days ago, as far as we know, Anvisa was already following the [seleção da] Argentina”, he commented, adding that the action “caused strangeness, as Anvisa left it until after the beginning of the game” to act.
The match had only 1,500 people in the audience, an audience made up of guests from the CBF, the São Paulo Football Federation (FPF) and Conmebol. In sporting terms, it was not worth as much as the final of the last Copa America, won by Argentina in national territory. Both Brazil and Argentina are slack on the leaderboard, in first and second place, respectively, and should have no problems to qualify for the next world championship. The political effects for the Brazilian health authorities are much more relevant, and this is what makes the early outcome of this game historic.
The reactions from the political world speak for themselves. “If we were in a moment of full normality in national life, with each authority fulfilling its functions with competence and agility, the embarrassment of the Brazil x Argentina game would not have occurred”, criticized the former governor of Ceará and aspirant to the Planalto Palace Ciro Gomes, on his Twitter profile. Deputy Rodrigo Maia (without party-RJ), former president of the Chamber, commented: “We will hope that Anvisa has the same firmness in relation to sanitary rules in events promoted by the president, without mask and vaccine”.
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