‘We’re the victims’, says Argentina coach Scaloni after COVID-19 chaos
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni lashed out at Brazilian authorities on Sunday following the dramatic suspension of the South American giants’ World Cup qualifier in Sao Paulo.
Argentina’s game against Brazil was stopped and later abandoned when public health officials from Brazil entered the field of play seeking to remove Albiceleste players.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, defender Cristian Romero and midfielder Giovani Lo Celso were among four England-based players in the Argentina squad accused of breaching Brazil’s COVID-19 quarantine protocols.
“It makes me very sad — we are the victims in the sense that we wanted to play the game, the Brazilian players also wanted to play it and the show was to be played,” Scaloni told Argentina’s TyCSports channel.
Scaloni said the match “should have been a party for everyone, to enjoy the match with the best in the world”.
Scaloni said Argentina, whose players left the field soon after the intervention by public health officials, could not tolerate members of the squad being deported.
“I would like people in Argentina to understand that as a coach I have to defend my players and if people come in saying they wanted to take them away and deport them, there is no chance,” he warned.
Scaloni added that at “no time were we told that they could not play the game”.
Sunday’s drama unfolded hours after Brazil’s National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) said Premier League players Lo Celso, Martinez, Romero and Emiliano Buendia had provided “false information” upon their entry to Brazil.
However, Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia said the team had followed FIFA protocols.
“It is not possible to speak of any lie,” Tapia said.
Tapia said Argentina was due to return to Buenos Aires later Sunday on a charter flight, insisting that the AFA had been “complying with (the protocols) and taking maximum care of our players, so that they can return to their clubs in the best way”.
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