A lengthy international break that started in August when several European leagues refused to release their top players came to an abrupt halt on Thursday night as Argentina’s stars Alejandro Gomez, Nicolas Otamendi and Lionel Messi performed a merry dance to a live Cumbia medley.
The celebrations in front of a 30%-full Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, were a great way to close what had been a highly controversial, difficult and sometimes bizarre round of World Cup qualifying in South America. There is no guarantee that the next round will be any different.
Argentina fans celebrated Messi and Co. for the first time since July’s Copa America win. The Paris Saint-Germain ace was overcome by emotion as the trophy was presented to him by a small but enthusiastic home crowd.
Brazil, located some 3,000 miles north, were also dominant despite the fact that 13 players were ruled out of playing against Peru. Everton Ribeiro scored in the first period to give Tite’s team an 8th consecutive qualifying win. This leaves them with one foot in Qatar, even though it is still early in the game.
When asked by reporters about the incident, the coach said that the right decision was to always respect the law. He also stated that people’s health is the most important thing.
Sport is important but health is more important than sport. The law is the first priority. While I value the game, if someone makes a mistake, the law should be applied to everyone.
Although no one would dispute Tite’s assertions, it was interesting to see how the law was applied on Sunday afternoon.
After failing to stop the four fugitives from Argentina from departing the hotel, they arrived at Arena Corinthians to change, sing the national anthem, and – in the case of Tottenham star Cristian Romero – leave a mark on Neymar with an aggressive early tackle. Officials later acknowledged that the visitors’ request for exemption from quarantine laws was not granted. This is a common practice during South American competitions such as the Copa Libertadores.
Gianni Infantino, FIFA chief, could not believe what he saw. He said at a conference that it was crazy, but that we must deal with the challenges and these issues that are on top of Covid crisis.
Another surreal twist was that the official report of the body pointed out Fernando Batista as the one responsible for signing off on dubious sanitary forms. However, it is unlikely that the Argentina Under-20 coach will ever hold any administrative position. He was also not even near Brazil at the time.
Batista, who was perplexed by the incident, told ESPN that he was walking out of River’s training grounds after watching their reserve match and his phone rang. “It has nothing to do with me, I returned from the United States last Sunday. I’ve only just begun my normal life after a week of isolation in Argentina.”
“I don’t have the power say, ‘I must sign this form’, I’m just a coach. It’s funny, but it’s mad that my name is being mentioned. I was not in Brazil or Venezuela.
ANVISA chief Antonio Barra Torres revealed a shocking revelation: even if the Premier League had resigned, Brazil’s footballers would have been treated the same.
“This rule applies only to foreigners. But if the Brazilian footballers were in the United Kingdom within the last 14 days, they wouldn’t have been able play,” he stated to ESPN. This raises questions about why Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus and Alisson would have been called up.
Brazil and its neighbours want the Premier League’s intransigence to be punished. A number of clubs will be without their stars this weekend due to their negative record. However, each side argues that the strict red list guidelines of the UK government must prevail over FIFA laws (ironically, Tite’s argument).
Tottenham are now planning their own punishments for Romero & Giovani Lo Celso who allegedly defied club wishes by boarding a plane to represent their country. Even Aston Villa, which sent Emiliano Martinez, and Emiliano Buendia to the first two games, is now questioning their decision.
It is a disaster. “I don’t understand why it happened, but it was very regrettable. It was very damaging to sport. We had done everything to reach an amicable agreement with the Argentine FA to allow our players to participate in very important games,” Villa chief executive Christian Purslow stated to the BBC following the Brazil disaster.
“We already have a congestion issue with World Cup qualifying matches in South America. I hope that between now and October, a sensible arrangement is put in place. Nobody wants to repeat what happened.”
“That would make any club executive feel extremely nervous about releasing overseas players while we are in this crisis.”
Purslow states that we, or at least some of us, will try again in October. CONMEBOL will host three more qualifiers. Brazil’s harrowing clash with Argentina must also be added to the calendar. Otherwise, the points will be awarded to the team involved. It is most likely that the former due to the nature of the interruption as well as the fact FIFA allowed players to take to the field fully informed.
All parties must come to an agreement and prevent another organisational disaster like the one that occurred in the past weeks.
It is unprofessional for the best footballers in the world to be used in negotiations between federations or governments.
These situations are unacceptable and would lead to further disrepute for the sport and deepen the rift among organisations in a time when cooperation and solidarity are more important than ever.