A Brazil v Argentina World Cup qualifier was abandoned after Brazilian health officials demanded the deportation of three England-based Argentinian players for failing to quarantine.
Officials walked onto the pitch just six minutes into the game in Sao Paulo last night to insist that the trio of Premier League players – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham Hotspur pair Cristian Romero and Giovani lo Celso – leave the field immediately.
The farcical scenes followed days of disputes between Brazilian officials and the Argentina team, their historic footballing rivals, over quarantine.
Brazilian rules state that anyone who has spent time in Britain during the past fortnight must isolate for 14 days on arrival.
The Premier League contingent in the Argentina squad, which also includes Aston Villa midfielder Emiliano Buendia, joined the national team early last week and flew to Brazil on Friday from Venezuela, where they played a previous match.
Brazilian officials accuse the England-based players of lying on their immigration documents to avoid quarantine.
“We got to this point because everything that [we] directed, from the first moment, was not fulfilled,” said Antonio Barra Torres, director at Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa.
“[The four players] were directed to remain isolated while awaiting deportation, but they did not comply. They went to the stadium and they entered the field, in a series of breaches.”
Argentina’s football authorities insisted they had followed all health protocols. Manager Lionel Scaloni said: “At no time were we notified that they couldn’t play the match.”
Brazilian football chief Ednaldo Rodrigues said: “With all due respect to Anvisa, they could have resolved this earlier and not waited for the game to start.”
World governing body Fifa noted that the game had been suspended, who will now submit a report to its disciplinary commission to determine any possible sanctions.
Player availability for this international window has been the subject of bitter disagreement between clubs and Fifa.
Premier League teams vowed not to release players for international matches in red-list countries, because the lengthy isolation required on their return would render them unavailable for several club fixtures.
Despite this, Tottenham and Aston Villa allowed Romero, Lo Celso, Martinez and Buendia to play for Argentina this month.