Lionel Messi has explained the reason he led his teammates to walk out of the pitch to the dressing room during their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 on Wednesday but there was a clash between both nations’ supporters that delayed the start in the Maracana Stadium.
Messi and his team had walked off the pitch in response to their supporters being attacked by police officers during the Brazilian national anthem.
Some fans were left bloodied and bruised and needed medical assistance, with the Argentina players rushing over to the away end to try and quell the tension.
At a point, Argentina goalkeeper, Emi Martinez was even seen trying to grab a baton out of the hand of one of the police officers. But Messi ultimately decided to lead his players off the pitch and back to the dressing room.
After a long delay, Argentina’s players re-emerged but the heated atmosphere had now spilled over onto the pitch, with Brazilian forward Rodrygo arguing with Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul over the decision to return to the dressing room.
Messi came over to intervene, but things only escalated more. When the match eventually kicked off, it was a heated and fiery contest, with Nicolas Otamendi scoring the game’s only goal, while Joelinton was sent off for lashing out at De Paul.
Speaking about the incident to reporters after the game, he said: “We saw how the police were hitting people, also with some of our families here too.
“It also happened already in the Libertadores final here too [between Argentine side Boca Juniors and Brazilian side Fluminense]. They are more focused on that than on playing the game.
“We are a family. We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, a tragedy could have happened today.”