Fiorentina players have often struggled to achieve recognition at the international level. Club legends like Sébastien Frey, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Borja Valero all struggled to break into their respective national teams despite incredible performances at club level. After the weekend four Viola players have had on international duty, though, perhaps Bartłomiej Drągowski and other overlooked players should feel at least a little bit thankful.
First, Nicolás González and Lucas Martínez Quarta joined Argentina for the grudge match in São Paulo in what may be the highest-profile international in the world. Just 6 minutes in, though, Brazilian health authorities stormed the field and stopped play because la Albiceleste fielded an XI featuring Emiliano Martínez, Christian Romero, and Giovanni Lo Celso, with Emi Buendía in the stands.
Why was that such a problem? Those four play in England and had broken Brazil’s quarantine rules when they crossed the border by not staying in the hotel by falsely claiming (doubtless prompted by the AFA) on forms that they had already quarantined. When Brazilian officials arrived to deport those players who’d lied, the Argentina group retreated to the dressing room and locked the doors, leading to a brief standoff that ended with the visitors being escorted back to their hotel.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while Argentina clearly broke their hosts’ Covid regulations, Brazil doesn’t come out of this whole mess looking squeaky clean either. The Seleção have treated those same regulations as secondary concerns previously, including during the Copa America final this summer, so it’s hard not to see this as at least partly motivated by gamesmanship.
Add into the pot that the arm of the Brazilian health authority that stepped in might not have had jurisdiction to do so and acted without the consent of the CBF, along with the obvious outrage from FIFA and CONMEBOL, and you’ve got perhaps the oddest scandal the game’s seen in at least a month or two. Our sister site Cartilage Free Captain has a very good explainer on the entire affair.
Anyways, González (who was on the bench) and Martínez Quarta (who was in the stands with Buendía) have been through maybe the wackiest international break of anyone in Viola history, and will return to Florence with some tales to amaze their club teammates. But they’ve only had the second-strangest trip.
Sofyan Amrabat and Youssef Maleh (on his first international appearance) joined Morocco, which traveled to Conakry to take on Guinea in a World Cup qualifier. The Atlas Lions were hoping to make it 6 points from their first two matches, which would’ve put them well on their way to qualification, but, unlike Argentina and Brazil, they didn’t even get the chance to take the field.
It wasn’t some byzantine thread of national health authorities and governing bodies jostling each other. Rather, it was a full blown coup d’état that overthrew Guinean president Alpha Condé. On the morning of 5 September, special forces under Colonel Mamady Doumbouya captured the presidential palace, taking Condé hostage, dissolving the constitution, and sealing the borders.
And through all this, what happened to the Moroccan team? The group was staying at a hotel just blocks from the palace and could hear evening gunfire as the overthrow occurred, which must have made it quite apparent that there would not be a World Cup Qualifier played that day. At that point, though, the game was probably far from everyone’s minds.
Part of the reason for that was that the sealed borders presented a significant hurdle to the Atlas Lions. With nobody allowed in or out of the country, they were stranded in the middle of what looks like it could be a military revolution, told not to leave their hotel by the rebels and effectively stuck in the middle of a military revolution in a foreign country.
After a tense negotiation with Doumbouya’s forces by Moroccan diplomats, though, the players were allowed to board two buses that took them through streets lined by people cheering the overthrow to the airport and a plane that safely got everyone back to Rabat, from where they’ll be able to return to their clubs.
It sounds like a genuinely terrifying experience and we’re all obviously thrilled and relieved that Amrabat, Maleh, and the rest of the Moroccan team are okay. But imagine being Nico and LMQ, going through that unprecedented madness with Brazil and Argentina, getting back, and knowing that your story is only the second wildest that Fiorentina players have had over this clusterf*** of an international break.