Players at one of Brazil’s biggest soccer teams are demanding greater protection after angry fans broke into Corinthians’ training camp and attacked athletes.
About 100 supporters, complaining about the club’s lackluster performances, cut through a wire fence on Feb. 1 as the team trained. Some of the fans had weapons, the players said, without being more specific.
Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero was grabbed by the throat and other players were also attacked in the latest act of fan violence in a country that will host the World Cup in less than five months.
“We are fed up with the irrationality and impunity of these violent acts that involve numerous episodes connected to football,” the players said in a statement released on Corinthians’ website.
Brazil’s soccer authorities are struggling to contain soccer violence, which is often linked to powerful organized supporter groups. In December, police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd after rival fans clashed during a game between Atletico Paranaense and Vasco da Gama. The match was halted as a helicopter landed on the field to airlift an unconscious supporter to hospital. The incident even prompted a response from the country’s president.
“The country of football can no longer live with violence in our stadiums,” Dilma Rousseff said on her Twitter feed after the incident.
Guerrero had become a hero among Corinthians supporters after he scored the goal that gave the Sao Paulo-based team victory over Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup final.
“The grotesque scenes experienced this last Saturday for us players and for all the team’s staff suggest that an unprecedented tragedy is about to occur in the working environment of a professional football club in the country and we won’t be accomplices to that,” the players said.
“It’s necessary to halt this and put together a task force capable of providing security to professionals and to the good fans,” they added.
Corinthians, the richest team in South American soccer, has beefed up security since the incident. Fans have been critical of the team following a series of poor performances in the state championship including a 5-1 defeat to Santos on Jan. 29.
Fans regularly turn on their teams in Brazil. Last season some supporters of 2013 champion Fluminense attacked the team’s headquarters following a league defeat, damaging property including players’ cars.
“We know this is not the first but it should be the last time that hooligans linked to organized supporters invade private property and attack players and club employees and threaten them with weapons,” the Corinthians players said.
----With assistance from Juan Pablo Spinetto in Rio de Janeiro. Editor: Peter-Joseph Hegarty