Violence-marred match hurts Brazil football image
Brazilian authorities on Thursday began investigations into
allegations that security personnel beat members of a visiting
Argentine football club at the halftime of the Copa
South American football officials described it as the most
serious incident in decades in the country that will host the 2014
World Cup – raising fears about Brazil’s ability to secure the
event and putting a blemish on the country’s reputation just months
before the Confederations Cup.
Wednesday’s final was called off and Sao Paulo was awarded the
title when Argentina’s Tigre refused to take the field for the
second half of the second leg of the final. Sao Paulo was leading
2-0, with the first leg having ended scoreless.
Officials of the Argentine club said their players and staff
were beaten by security officials in the dressing room area at
halftime and guns were drawn. Brazilian authorities denied,
however, that any weapons were brandished by the private security
The trouble off the pitch followed sharp scuffles between the
teams at the end of the first half.
The Sao Paulo State Public Safety Department said it would
interview witnesses, players and security personnel, while South
American football’s governing body CONMEBOL said it would also
conduct a ”thorough investigation” into the incident.
CONMEBOL spokesman Nestor Benitez told The Associated Press that
what happened in Sao Paulo ”stains the good image of South
American football.” He said it was the most serious incident of
its kind in 25 years.
Despite that, there was little debate within Brazil itself over
the match – many of the comments posted on Twitter and other social
networking sites hurled insults at the Argentine team for being
poor sports, accusing them of wanting to fight more than play once
they went down by two goals.
Violence is common around Brazilian football – images of police
batting at rowdy fans is common, and fan-on-fan violence has begun
to creep up again after a quiet few years. However, security
personnel getting into a fight with players as is being alleged was
virtually unheard of.
Shortly after arriving back home, Tigre captain Martin Galmarini
described the violence as a ”dramatic, chaotic and hellish
He said the team was harassed as it arrived at Sao Paul’s
Morumbi stadium – a common occurrence in South American
”They broke all the windows of the van, hurled rocks and beer
bottles and we are not allowed to warm up on the pitch,” he
The trouble at Morumbi stemmed from confrontations between the
teams following a first half in which the hosts had taken a 2-0
lead after goals from Lucas and Osvaldo.
It was unclear what happened in the dressing room area, but
Argentine and Brazilian television showed what appeared to be
blood-spattered walls. Argentine television also showed several
Tigre staff members with bruises and bloody faces. Brazilian
television showed security personnel that were also bruised and
”Police entered and struck our players with clubs,” Gorosito
told Argentine television. ”It was crazy. What happened was
A Brazilian police officer who identified himself as Major
Gonzaga told reporters that police were called to break up a fight
between Argentine players and Sao Paulo security guards, but that
that no one was armed and that police did not act violently.
Joao Paulo de Jesus Lopes, one of Sao Paulo’s vice presidents,
told reporters that Tigre players tried to ”break into the
Brazilian team’s locker room and injured some of Sao Paulo’s
”We were fighting for 15 minutes with people trained by, and
wearing the colors of Sao Paulo. There was no need to do something
like this. They were winning the match,” said Tigre keeper
For Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s leading sports commentators,
Brazil’s image in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup took a hard
”What happened at the final was a serious setback to Brazil’s
image as host of next years’ Confederations’ Cup and the World
Cup,” Kfouri said by telephone.
Nestor Gorosito, the coach of Tigre, declined to take his team
back on the field for the second half. He said security officials
pulled guns on his players while others clubbed players and team
”Rocks were hurled at the bus carrying the Argentine players to
the stadium. They were not allowed to practice at the stadium and
the team’s private guards were reported to have threatened the
Argentine players with guns,” Kfouri said. ”These barbaric things
took place all the time in the last century between the 1920s and
1970s. It is a sad return through the tunnel of time to the
deplorable past of South American football.”
He added that it is ”a past that caused European teams like
Milan and Real Madrid to refuse to come to South America to dispute
the Intercontinental Cup” – the predecessor to the Club World Cup
currently being played in Japan.
The chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo, before a sellout crowd of
65,000 at Morumbi stadium, are sure to trouble FIFA – the governing
body of world football – which is already frustrated by Brazil’s
slow preparations to host the World Cup.
Most of FIFA’s angst so far has been focused on getting stadiums
and new infrastructure in place. Now security also looms as a
concern for the World Cup, which will be played at 12 venues across
Violence on and off the pitch still blights many matches in
South America, with Brazil and Argentina particularly affected. For
the World Cup, FIFA relies on local officials and police to enforce
safety at the stadiums.
FIFA said it could not comment on the incident since it was not
involved in its operation.
”However, for the FIFA Confederations Cup and the FIFA World
Cup there will be a comprehensive security concept for the stadiums
in place developed by the Local Organizing Committee together with
the respective authorities and reviewed by the FIFA security
experts” FIFA said in a statement
It added that ”more than 30,000 security officers will be
trained and certified to work during the FIFA Confederations Cup
and FIFA World Cup and that it has full confidence in the security
With the 2016 Summer Games slated for Rio de Janeiro, Olympic
officials also are sure to review the incident.
Romer Osuna, a Bolivian official with CONMEBOL, said Tigre
players were afraid to return to the field after the first half of
”The Tigre people declined to play because they considered
security was not good enough,” Osuna told Fox Sports.
Referee Enrique Osses of Chile awarded the victory to Sao Paulo
after waiting about 30 minutes for Tigre to retake the field.
Sao Paulo scored twice in five minutes in the first half – a
left-footed drive from Lucas in the 23rd and a lobbed shot from the
right wing by Osvaldo in the 28th.
Sao Paulo, one of Brazil’s most famous clubs, is a three-time
winner of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s most prestigious
club tournament. It has also won the Club World Cup once, and twice
won the Intercontinental Cup.
This was the club’s first Copa Sudamericana title.
Tigre was playing in its first international final and has never
won the Argentine first-division title.
Associated Press writers Steve Wade, Pedro Servin and Graham
Dunbar contributed to this report.