Victoria’s events and sports minister Martin Pakula said he was “pretty pissed off” by Argentina’s decision to back down from its contractual agreement to play fierce rivals Brazil in Melbourne next month.
The South American heavyweights were due to meet in front of a bumper crowd at the MCG on 11 June. Pakula said about 60,000 tickets had already been snapped up since going on sale last month.
The match had originally been slated as part of the teams’ preparations for this year’s World Cup in Qatar but organisers and the Brazilian FA announced on Wednesday that the match would not go ahead due to Argentina’s reluctance to travel.
“Regrettably, event organisers have been informed by Pitch, the Superclasico 11 June 2022 match agent, that contrary to their prior agreement and commitment to do so, Argentina are no longer prepared to travel to Australia for the match against Brazil,” organisers said.
The Brazilian federation CBF confirmed the news of the cancellation, saying the decision had been down to the Argentine federation.
The Argentine FA has made no comment on the issue, leaving the Victorian government searching for answers.
“I think they owe Australian football fans an explanation because they haven’t provided an acceptable explanation to the promoter,” Pakula said. “I know Brazil is very upset. It’s really impacting their preparation for the World Cup.
“It’s a game that would have been extremely popular here in Melbourne. I welcome the comments by the promoter overnight that all the fans will receive a full refund.”
The last time the South American giants played a Superclasico at the MCG five years ago, more than 95,000 fans turned out to watch the likes of Lionel Messi.
The cancellation follows a ruling by Fifa on Monday that the two teams would still have to play their qualifying tie which was suspended in September shortly after kickoff and never completed because officials complained of Argentina players violating Covid-19 protocols.
Fifa wants the game played this September, a couple of months before the World Cup finals start in Qatar, but both teams, who qualified automatically at the top of their South American group, have not committed to playing it.
Juninho Paulista, co-ordinator of the Brazilian team, said at the news conference: “A statement came from the AFA [the Argentine federation], officially, and they informed us of this decision.
“We were prepared and with all the logistics ready for this game because we understood that we had to fulfil the contract,” he added.
Organisers now says they are “working with the key stakeholders connected with the match to review all options for the fixture and will provide further updates as quickly as possible.”
Ticket holders would be eligible for refunds with details of the process to be provided shortly, the organisers added.