Remember that absolutely BONKERS postponed World Cup qualifying match between Argentina and Brazil back in September? Sure you do. It involved Tottenham Hotspur players and Argentinian nationals Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso who may or may not have had falsified information their customs declaration forms, a pitch invasion by a Brazilian heath agency that stopped the match six minutes after it had kicked off, stringent COVID-19 travel and quarantine policies that prevented players from returning straight to their English club teams, and the sovereign nation of Croatia. Click the linked article for an explainer if you’ve forgotten the details.
Well, FIFA has finally weighed in more than five months after the incident took place and has taken a number of punitive measures after that hilarious fracas, and FIFA is NOT happy. FIFA has decided to take the following punitive measures:
1. to order the Brazilian Football Association to pay a fine of CHF 500,000 with respect to infringements related to order and security;
2. to order the Argentinian Football Association to pay a fine of CHF 200,000 with respect to its failure to comply with its obligations in relation to order and security, the preparation of and its participation in the match;
3. to order the Brazilian Football Association and the Argentinian Football Association to each pay a fine of CHF 50,000 as a result of the abandonment of the match;
4. to suspend the Argentinian players Emiliano Buendía, Emiliano Martínez, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero for two (2) matches each for not complying with the FIFA Return to Football International Match Protocol.
The only part that really concerns Tottenham fans is the fourth bullet point... and “concerns” probably isn’t the right word. Cuti Romero will now miss Argentina’s next two international mixups, as he, along with Lo Celso and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia and Emiliano Martinez, were central figures in what caused the match to be abandoned in the first place. That means Romero will stay home during the next scheduled international break in March, missing two World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and at Ecuador. The match itself will be replayed “on a date and at a location to be decided by FIFA.”
That the four Argentine players have been suspended does seem to suggest that they had some agency in the whole matter, or if not agency at least knowledge that they knew they were trying to slip into Brazil without meeting the country’s COVID guidelines. Whether they should be punished for it is another question, but FIFA seems to think so.
But in truth, this is FINE. Argentina has already qualified for the World Cup (as has Brazil) so there’s really no reason for Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni to play his first team (though knowing Scaloni, he’d try to do so anyway). Romero, like Lo Celso, likely would’ve reported had he been called up, but now Spurs don’t have to worry about him picking up another stupid injury while away on meaningless international duty.
The whole thing is stupid and has cost some football federations a lot of money. That much is good as the federations were behaving like spoiled children, and while the four Argentina players probably aren’t thrilled, this is the best thing for them as well. At least, it takes the decision about whether to report for international duty out of their hands.