As you’ve probably heard by now, a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was dramatically stopped by health authorities yesterday on live TV.
Yet more regulatory Covid chaos, televised for all to see.
As the world watched, Brazilian health officials stormed the Corinthians pitch in Sao Paulo five minutes into the game to detain four Argentinian players for allegedly breaching the country’s quarantine rules.
A few hours before the match, Brazil’s health regulator, Anvisa, said that four Argentines who play in England’s Premier League would have to quarantine, because under Brazilian rules you must isolate for 2 weeks if you have been in the UK in the past fortnight.
Anvisa called the players’ presence in the country a “serious health risk” and said they should be “prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil.”
Despite this statement, however, the players were allowed to leave their hotels and go to the stadium, where they remained for an hour, at which point they began the match. Then, and only then, did the authorities decide to do something.
“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?” Argentinian captain Lionel Messi said just following the incident, justifiably annoyed.
“We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”
“(The four players) were directed to remain isolated while awaiting deportation, but they did not comply. They went to the stadium and they entered the field, in a series of breaches,” Anvisa said.
Not only this, but other teams throughout the league have lost players to similar regulations. As reported by Reuters:
“The confusion comes amid continuing anger in South America at rules which have robbed several teams of key players for this month’s three World Cup qualifiers. Brazil are without nine key men for Argentina game, and other South American sides have also lost players due to a decision by some European clubs not to let their players travel to the continent. They would have to quarantine on return and the clubs do not want to lose their players for subsequent league games.”
Now, maybe some will defend all this as justified – after all, only 31.5% of Brazilians are fully-vaccinated, and the Argentine figure is not much better at 35.8%. So surely the health and safety of the country is more important than a bunch of lads kicking an inflatable piece of plastic around on the grass, right?
However, there are a few major problems with this.
First of all, it’s now been well established that Covid-19 is incredibly hard to contract outdoors in the fresh air, where these players would be. 99.9% of Covid cases are contracted indoors, not outdoors, meaning the risk posed by these players is virtually zero. Unless they’re french kissing each other or spitting on the audience, everyone will probably be grand.
Interesting story by @RMcGreevy1301
“Just one confirmed case of Covid-19 in every thousand is traced to outdoor transmission”
It is hard to square that fact with the list of outdoors activities that are still banned, 3.5 months into the current phase. https://t.co/BDkA8fV1yx
— Mark Paul (@MarkPaulTimes) April 5, 2021
Additionally, according to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs website:
“While foreign nationals may enter Brazil by air, provided they meet all other mandatory immigration requirements, they must present to the airline responsible for the flight before boarding the following:
A document proving laboratory testing (RT-PCR), for screening for infection by SARS-CoV-2, with a negative / non-reactive result, carried out 72 hours prior to the time of shipment.”
In other words, in order to arrive in the country, the players by definition must have had a negative PCR test, and yet their presence is still supposedly a problem.
Moreover, the reported death rate for Covid-19 is dropping precipitously in both Brazil and Argentina after peaking around May/Junish. And it’s not hard to explain either.
After all, both countries are in the Southern hemisphere, and down under the winter starts in June, meaning respiratory illnesses are more likely to be prevalent. As we move into September, there would naturally be a dropoff in deaths and cases, which is precisely what we have seen since the southern winter solstice (which falls on June 20th).
And aside from anything, even if you fully support the policy, the fact that the match was allowed to commence after an hour of preparation before the deadly biohazards in question were removed from the pitch makes such a needless spectacle of the whole thing. It’s almost like authorities intentionally got fans’ and players hopes up just to dash them, when the match easily could have been stopped beforehand.
But maybe most importantly of all, practicality aside, is the fact that this kind of thing, intentionally or otherwise, crushes the human spirit.
The ability to go to a match and cheer for your favourite team. The ability to go to a pub and drink with your friends. The ability to go on holiday and get away from work, or go for a dinner party at a friend or relative’s house. These are part of the human condition and make life worth living – especially in a place like South America where a game like football plays such an integral part of the culture.
The fact that governments and crusty bureaucratic organisations around the world are strangling every source of happiness and joy for arbitrary and capricious reasons is an affront to human nature itself.
People can live with a virus – there have been diseases, wars, famines and catastrophes of all stripes all through human history, and there surely will be more in future. People still lived their lives back then, and they have to live their lives now. We can’t cease to be human, and ban the simple pleasures of existence in an effort to avoid natural and inevitable suffering. We can’t be so afraid of death that we forget to live.
Brazil, of course, has the right to enforce any health policy it wants – it’s their country at the end of the day. But they should be aware that their behaviour looks daft and embarrassing in the eyes of the world.