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Saturday, January 29, 2022

FIFA mulls disciplinary action after suspension of Brazil-Argentina’s World Cup qualifier


The much-anticipated match was suspended moments after kick-off, leaving millions of fans disappointed. 

FIFA said it “regrets” scenes that led to the suspension of Brazil and Argentina’s World Cup qualifier match which prevented “millions of fans” from enjoying the game, as the chief of the organisation described the event as “crazy”.

The football governing body said it would analyse reports on Sunday’s suspension before deciding on necessary disciplinary measures. 

The first reports from match officials have been already sent and will now be analysed by “the competent disciplinary bodies,” FIFA said in a statement.

The much-anticipated Brazil-Argentina game came to a sudden stop just five minutes after kick-off, following the Brazilian health officials’ objection to the participation of some Argentine players who reportedly violated quarantine rules.

Health officials raided the pitch at Sao Paulo’s Corinthians Arena on Sunday claiming that four England-based players for Argentina were required to quarantine but ignored the guidelines. 

Brazilian Football Confederation President Ednaldo Rodrigues criticised the health officials for the timing of their intervention.

Under Brazilian Covid-19 guidelines, visitors who have been in the UK 14 days before entering the country are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Brazil. However, four Premier League players provided “false information” and “failed to comply” with the country’s rules, according to the Brazilian health agency Anvisa.

On Saturday, it held a meeting with the “institutions involved” to inform them of the necessity to quarantine, however, the players still trained on Saturday night, which led to a dramatic intervention on the day of the match.

Anvisa called the federal police for help to enforce the laws, but were left with little result.

While authorities failed to name the four, it is known that Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez of Aston Villa, and Giovani lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham all play for English Premier League clubs.

The Argentine Football Association maintained the players had been in Brazil since 3 September and had allegedly adhered to the country’s health protocols.

Around an hour after the intervention, South American football’s governing body Conmebol announced in a statement that the match had been suspended. The rearranged fixture has not been scheduled yet.

On Monday, AFA said all four players were returning to their clubs and they won’t participate in their Premier League games this weekend because of UK quarantine restrictions.

Brazil’s federal police said they had opened an investigation into allegations that the Argentine players had violated government laws.

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“We can confirm an investigation has begun into the possible crime of supplying false information,” said a spokesperson.

“Yesterday, the players were notified they must leave the country, which is the regular procedure, and statements from them were taken.”

Exemptions for players

Meanwhile, FIFA president Gianni Infantino called on Europe to remain open minded in order to help South America resolve its qualification backlog.

“We have a difficult situation in the UK. Players have to go back to play for their countries,” he said in a video to the European Club Association’s general assembly.

The comments came after the UK’s government disregarded Infantino’s suggestion to grant quarantine exemptions to footballers so they could fulfil their international commitments.

“In March, the South American players stayed with their clubs but now they have to play the qualifiers for their national teams. That is why I called for solidarity,” he said. 

“We have to give hope to countries who only see their best players when they play for their national teams. We have to protect the World Cup,” he noted, adding that “September has not been ideal, let’s find the right compromise for October and November and next year.”

In August, the Premier League and the Football Association held talks with the British government about the possibility of granting players a quarantine exemption, however no agreement has been reached.

This implies that players are still subject to a mandatory 10-day isolation period upon their return to the UK, which will prevent them from participating in games.

As a result, the Premier League released a statement on 24 August in which it said its clubs had “reluctantly but unanimously” decided not to participate in matches taking place in red-list countries during September’s international break.

In response to the pandemic challenges, FIFA previously announced an extension to the September and October international windows by two days in South America to allow nations to catch up on World Cup qualifiers that were postponed because of the novel coronavirus.

This means that matches will take place on 9 September and 14 October, with players involved being released for 11 days.

Because of the time difference, players involved in those games may not return to their clubs until 11 September when eight Premier League matches are scheduled to take place.

Last week, speculation emerged that some Premier League clubs won’t be allowed to pick players for future matches due to complaints about their failure to release them for the qualifiers.

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