Brazilian officials are looking into violence at a top-division soccer match that caused police to target the crowd with rubber bullets and airlift an injured fan for treatment two days after the draw for next year’s World Cup.
Supporters of Atletico Paranaense and Vasco da Gama, one of two teams from Rio de Janeiro relegated yesterday, clashed when the teams met in the southern city of Joinville. Live broadcast images showed a motionless person being kicked in the head. Officials said three people were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, including one who was airlifted.
The case is the latest incident of fan violence in South America’s biggest country, and raises more concerns about Brazil’s ability to stage the World Cup. Last week officials said all six stadiums that remain under construction for the event will miss a Dec. 31 deadline, including Sao Paulo’s Itaquera stadium where two men were killed following a crane accident on Nov. 27.
“The country of football can no longer live with violence in our stadiums,” Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said on her Twitter feed, adding that she had spoken with the country’s sports minister about creating police focused solely on soccer. Yesterday’s game was being played away from Atletico’s home ground in Curitiba, one of 12 World Cup hosts cities, after the club was punished for separate episode of fan violence.
The match was suspended for over an hour as the helicopter landed on the field. Players from both teams could be seen trying to calm fans, and some players including Atletico Paranaense defender Luiz Alberto broke down in tears as the violence continued.
“We looked at the stands and there was no police,” Luiz Alberto said. “I’ve been playing for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this in person. We will have a World Cup in our country and we know these images will be shown everywhere.”
Soccer’s governing body FIFA attempted to make a distinction between the World Cup and the Brazilian championship.
“For the 2014 FIFA World Cup a very comprehensive security concept is in place in an integrated operation between private and public security authorities to ensure the safety for fans, players and any other stakeholder involved in the event,” it said in an e-mailed statement. “The concept has worked very well during the FIFA Confederations Cup and is built on models used at previous FIFA World Cups.”