Media blackout stays for Argentina players

BUENOS AIRES • Argentina's players, who have been arriving in Buenos Aires for World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia, are sticking to a decision dating back to November not to talk to the media.

Players, including the Manchester-based Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and Sergio Romero, did not speak to reporters awaiting their arrival at Ezeiza international airport on Monday.

Captain Lionel Messi, set to arrive yesterday (today, Singapore time) with Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano, will be picked up on the runway and whisked off to the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) training complex thereby avoiding reporters.

The squad were upset by a report in November alleging that forward Ezequiel Lavezzi had been smoking marijuana at the complex where Argentina were preparing for a home tie against Colombia in San Juan.

After the 3-0 victory on Nov 15, Messi read a statement to the media at a news conference attended by the whole squad in which they said they would not speak to reporters until further notice.

Argentina meet Chile at the River Plate stadium tomorrow in a match they must win to climb into the top four qualifying berths in the 10-nation South American group.

They are fifth on 19 points, a placing that would put them in an intercontinental play-off for a place at the 2018 finals in Russia, a point behind Copa America holders Chile and Ecuador.

Five days after the Chile game, Argentina visit second-bottom Bolivia at high altitude in La Paz where they have not won since 2005.

Injured defender Pablo Zabaleta will miss both games, while striker Paulo Dybala is doubtful, the AFA said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2017, with the headline 'Media blackout stays for Argentina players'. Print Edition | Subscribe