Sports

Club vs. Country row brewing over WC qualifiers

Argentina said on Sunday that Aston Villa‘s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia were available for all three of their September World Cup qualifiers, despite the Premier League club saying the players had agreed to only take part in the first two.

Goalkeeper Martinez and winger Buendia have been called up for Argentina’s triple header against Venezuela (Sept. 2), Brazil (Sept. 5) and Bolivia (Sept. 9) in their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

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The Premier League had said clubs would not release players if matches were in a country on the UK’s red list, but Martinez and Buendia flew out to join their teammates in Buenos Aires after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Brentford.

Aston Villa said on their website that the two players had agreed to make themselves available for the first two qualifiers but would not take part in the third.

A club statement read: “These arrangements mean that Martinez and Buendia will only miss our Premier League match with Chelsea before being available for the visit of Everton to Villa Park on Sept. 18th in order to comply with the UK’s COVID quarantine regulations.”

However, a spokesperson for the Argentine Football Association said both players would be available for all three games and cited an earlier Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling against La Liga on a similar issue.

“Our players are scheduled for three knockout dates and that’s it,” said the spokesperson.

Football’s world governing body FIFA said it expected players to be allowed to play for their countries.

“We now expect the release of players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers in South America to occur in accordance with the recent FIFA decision, the legality and legitimacy of which has today been recognised in today’s CAS ruling,” it said.

Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo, who saw Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero called up by Argentina, wanted clarity on the issue with more international breaks looming over the coming months.

“We have to obey the government law,” he told reporters. “We will try to do so but at the same time we don’t have any kind of help from FIFA, the government or the Premier League in support in this situation.

“What we are trying to do is anticipate the situations. So expecting that not only for the next international break but also there will be a couple more, so we need to be clear.”

Two more international breaks are scheduled in October and November.

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