KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY
—- Brazilian security services and CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, were both brought under scrutiny after the premature, chaotic end to the final of the Copa Sudamerica – the continent’s equivalent to UEFA’s Europa League – in Sao Paulo.
Officials of Argentinian club Tigre accused police in Sao Paulo of pulling guns on their players who then refused to emerge from the dressing room for the second half of the tie.
Sao Paulo were duly declared winners of the tournament but events surrounding the match also sparked new concerns about administration and match control in Brazil ahead of its hosting of the 2014 World Cup.
President of CONMEBOL is Nicolas Leoz, 85-year-old Paraguayan who missed both the match – and the current FIFA exco meeting in Tokyo – while heading home after heart surgery, actually in Sao Paulo. Leoz has been the centre of controversies, dating back to the ISL scandal and 2018/2022 World Cup bid process.
Earlier this year he was appointed life president of CONMEBOL to evade any possible FIFA reform pressure over age and term limits. But his health concerns meant he missed the FIFA executive meeting in Tokyo this past week after which world federation president Sepp Blatter took the Brazilian security forces to task.
Blatter said: “I have to say that [these events were] a warning for the organisers of the World Cup and for all organisations of what can happen [because] security is not a matter for sports organisations but a matter of the authorities – be it the police or the army or whatever.
“What we [in football] can do is set out principles and regulations, give guidelines and a special security officer on the spot but finally it is the organisation and the responsibility of the police or the army to take. ”
Lucas Moura, in his last game before his move to Paris Saint-Germain, and Osvaldo had scored two goals in five minutes to put Sao Paulo in control before fighting erupted as the players left the pitch at halftime.
The incident, in which Tigre said they were attacked by around 20 men, followed a brawl involving players and officials as the teams left the pitch at halftime in the second leg of the final at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium.
International agencies Reuters, AFP and AP reported coach Nestor Gorosito as saying: “They pulled two guns on us, the rest of the match is not going to be played. They ambushed us and one of them pulled out a revolver and put it against (goalkeeper) Damian Albil’s chest. Their security and police also hit us, there were around 20 of them.”
Tigre players remained in their dressing-room for three hours after the incident and then went to a police station to make an official complaint.
A small club based just outside Buenos Aires, Tigre were angry before kick-off after officials tried to stop their players warming up on the pitch. The players managed to dodge officials by leaping over advertising hoardings.
Tigre also said their bus was pelted with stones and beer cans on its way to the stadium.
Argentinian media outlets published photographs of a blood stained dressing room and comments from players saying they were hit with sticks.
As soon as the referee signalled the end of the match, Sao Paulo players hugged each other and began celebrating. They were then handed the trophy by officials from CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation.
Sao Paulo jibes
“They were going to lose by a big score,” Sao Paulo President Juvenal Juvencio told the club’s website (www.saopaulofc.net). “Our biggest victory is the fact that the Argentines ran away.”
Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni accused Tigre’s players of spoiling for a fight. He said: “They came here to fight, not to play. “We are not worried. I don’t know what happened inside the dressing room.”
Brazil has a history of police intervention on the field with one of the most notorious incidents also involving an Argentine side at the Morumbi in April 2005.
Quilmes defender Leandro Desabato was arrested on the field for alleged racism during a Libertadores Cup game against Sao Paulo following a first-half incident with opposing forward Grafite. Desabato was held in custody for 40 hours, at one stage being handcuffed, before being released. The case was later dropped.
In October 2002, Santos defender Preto was knocked unconscious when a policeman hit him on the head with a truncheon as players protested about a refereeing decision in a match in Belem.
In March 2006, riot police used pepper spray against brawling players during a Vasco da Gama-Flamengo derby at the Maracana stadium, where one policeman was seen with his arm around a player’s neck.
Two years later Botafogo defender Andre Luis was arrested on the field and frog-marched out of the stadium by around 10 riot police after being sent off in a match at Nautico in the North-Easter city of Recife. His team mates were squirted with pepper spray.
# # # #