Just two days on from the World Cup draw and Brazil returned to a shocking and vicious reality on Sunday night.
The Brasileirao season-ending game between Atletico Paranaense and Vasco Da Gama was broadcast across much of the country, with the former hoping to make the Copa Libertadores and the latter desperate to avoid relegation.
However, the match ended up being seen around the world as massive crowd trouble and violence resulted in three serious injuries, with a helicopter having to land on the field to remove one of two unconscious fans to hospital.
By yesterday afternoon local time, it had emerged that two of the injured had been discharged while there had been three arrests.
Many more are expected to follow as the country came to terms with the latest blow to its reputation.
Atletico’s home stadium, the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, will host four games at next summer’s showpiece, however this top-flight crunch match was moved 80 miles south to the city of Joinville due to previous incidents between supporters of the two teams.
But, with Joinville in the state of Santa Catarina, local law prevented police being used to provide security at a ‘private event’.
That meant the thousands of fans were separated by only 80 private security guards when the fighting began after just 15 minutes. Only then did state police move in, firing rubber bullets to separate the warring factions.
The incident caused a 70-minute delay in the game as the stadium turned into a battle zone, with supporters charging each other across the open stands while some used makeshift weapons.
Disturbing pictures later showed fans being beaten and kicked while they lay helpless on the ground.
“This is deplorable,” said Vasco manager Adilson Batista, who eventually saw his team lose 5-1. “It’s sad to see images like these just before the World Cup in our country. I’m shocked — this is not sport.”
The club’s goalkeeper Alessandro added: “The stadium isn’t safe. From what we can see the fans aren’t segregated.”
Meanwhile, Atletico defender Luiz Alberto noted: “I’ve been playing for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. We will have a World Cup in our country and we know these images will be shown everywhere”.
He added: “We saw a young lad laying down, getting kicked, being hit by blocks of wood. He is a human being. This needs to stop.”
Yesterday, the country’s president Dilma Rousseff — who had announced how the World Cup would be a celebration of football and Brazil last Friday — condemned the troublemakers and called for a special police station to be set up to deal with football-related incidents. Meanwhile, the sports ministry demanded swift punishment for hooligans.
However, none of this is new to the country where many supporters’ groups are linked to criminal gangs. It’s not uncommon before and after games to see crowd trouble — in August supporters of Corinthians and Vasco clashed, in October fans fought with police at the Sao Paulo derby between Sao Paulo and Corinthians, while one expert yesterday suggested that 30 people had been killed in and around Brazilian football stadia this year.
Speaking to Reuters, Mauricio Murad, a Rio de Janeiro sociologist who wrote the book How To Understand Football Violence, commented: “Something has changed, and for the worse.
“Over the last five or six years violence inside stadiums was under control and it was only bad outside the grounds. What we’ve seen over the last few weekends is a return to violence inside the stadiums.”
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