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FIFA Eyes Disciplinary Action Against Argentina, Brazil After World Cup Qualifier Chaos

Disciplinary proceedings were opened by FIFA against Argentina and Brazil on Tuesday over the chaos that led to their World Cup qualifier being suspended after Brazilian health officials stormed the field to question the quarantine status of players.

FIFA cited ongoing legal procedures as the reason it could not provide specifics on the alleged rule breaches or comment on whether it could also have been partly culpable, along with South American confederation CONMEBOL, for the saga that led to the game being halted after seven minutes on Sunday.

FIFA did not specify which regulations the football federations from Argentina and Brazil were being investigated for breaching. Four of Argentina’s English Premier League players were accused of flouting quarantine requirements in Sao Paulo and of falsifying Brazilian coronavirus declarations by not stating they had been in red-listed Britain in the previous 14 days.

“Following the analysis of the official match reports related to the FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina, FIFA can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been opened involving both member associations,” FIFA said in a statement. “The two teams were asked to provide further information on the facts that led to the suspension of the match, which will be gathered and then thoroughly reviewed by FIFA’s disciplinary committee.”

But FIFA itself could technically be partly culpable, too, as the organizers of the qualifier which appointed the match delegate, whose role is to oversee that regulations are being adhered to.

CONMEBOL could also come under scrutiny, given that The Associated Press obtained a Brazilian health ministry document sent to CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez that said a final request for a quarantine exemption was rejected for Aston Villa players Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, and Tottenham duo Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero.

They had arrived in Brazil on Friday morning from Caracas, where they’d beaten Venezuela 3-1 the previous night. A Sao Paulo state health secretariat document obtained by the AP shows the organization received the first rumors about players giving false information to enter the country just before midnight, about 15 hours after they left the airport.

The same document says Argentina youth team coach Fernando Ariel Batista filled the forms for all the players, although he denied Monday doing so or even being in Brazil.

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Rather than deporting the players, as Anvisa noted was within its powers, quarantine was recommended. Argentina was also advised to seek a last-minute exemption from the Brazilian government, according to the Sao Paulo state document.

But the message sent to Dominguez on Sunday ahead of kickoff showed the Brazilian authorities said the players were being recommended to quarantine at the hotel to comply with COVID-19 rules.

That did not happen and it took the health officials entering the match already underway to challenge the four players, who were later allowed to fly back to Buenos Aires. They are being investigated by Brazil federal police for allegedly providing false information upon arrival in Sao Paulo.

The AP has seen two Brazilian Football Confederation documents — dated July and last Thursday — highlighting new government quarantine requirements issued in June for travelers who were in Britain two weeks before their arrival.

The documents were addressed to José Astigarraga, the secretary-general of South American soccer body CONMEBOL, with copies to the Argentine and Peru federations. Brazil is to due to host Peru on Thursday in another qualifier for next year’s World Cup.

Brazil’s football federation, the CBF, later said that it “followed its institutional role as host entity of the match by informing all those involved about the health legislation in place” in those documents. It also said it sought to “promote an understanding among the entities so health protocols could be complied with for the match to take place.”

The documents also mention the possibility of exceptional waivers to be requested to the office of Brazil’s Chief of Staff, which said Monday that it had not received requests for Argentine players. That reinforces the lack of clarity over what the CBF did wrong.

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