SAO PAULO (AP) — A Copa Sudamericana match will be played as scheduled Tuesday night despite 11 members of Independiente's contingent testing positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Brazil, the South American soccer body CONMEBOL confirmed.
Independiente claimed the positives are residual cases of players who have recovered, but Brazil requires negative results from tests taken up to three days before every match.
The Argentinian giants will face local team Bahia in a third-round match of the group stage. CONMEBOL had announced Monday that the game would be postponed but reversed course Tuesday morning.
Officials did not identify who tested positive, only that it was a mix of players and staff.
Independiente starting defender Juan Manuel Insaurralde indicated that he was among the positive cases, posting a photo on his Instagram account showing team members sleeping on a floor in the Salvador airport.
“Are we criminals? Shame!” Insaurralde said in his post.
Independiente said on Twitter that the 11 were returning to Argentina. It also complained that infected players and staffers were mistreated at the airport, where they arrived Monday night.
“After being mistreated for more than 20 hours by Bahia health authorities, the 11 people stopped are already returning to Argentina. The rest of the squad is in Brazil to play the match,” the team said.
The club said the infected were left with no food or water for six hours while the rest of the squad was taken to a hotel.
The Brazilian health agency said it other members of the Independiente squad and its flight crew were put into isolation in their hotels due to their close contacts with those who tested positive.
Argentina’s consul in Salvador, Pablo Virasoro, told newspaper Olé that the 11 did not travel with the disease.
“CONMEBOL allows players to travel and even play when they test positive if there’s a certain time between the initial detection and the moment of the match,” Virasoro said. “The problem is that Brazilian authorities do not know that possibility.”
Independiente said all those traveling to Salvador took their tests on Saturday, adding the incident at the airport “generated an unsustainable delay, altered the routine and the resting time of our team before a match.”
Independiente leads its group with six points after two matches. Bahia is second with four. Only the winner of the group will advance to the next stage of the Copa Sudamericana.
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