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The Early Lead
Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 07/21/2011

Soccer riot in Brazil raises safety concerns for 2014 World Cup in Rio (Video)


Brazilian riot police disperse mock hooligans during a police exercise at Arena da Baixada stadium, one of the venues of the 2014 World Cup. Will they be able to keep the peace when the world is watching? (STRINGER/BRAZIL - REUTERS)

(Watch video of the riot that broke out at the Campinas Derby here.)

A massive riot broke out in the stands during a Brazilian club soccer match last weekend, casting doubts on Brazil’s ability to control hooliganism as it gears up to host the 2014 World Cup.

Cross-town rivals Guarani and Ponte Preta have been bitter rivals for decades, but their annual Serie B clash — known as the Campinas Derby — spiraled out of control last Saturday when visiting fans revolted, inciting violence from police on the scene. Fires burned, rubber bullets flew and in the aftermath, both teams may face stiff fines and league sanctions.

What sparked the scene above in the Sao Paolo suburb of Campinas? Apparently, at halftime with the home side of Ponte Preta leading 1-0, the public address announcer encouraged the home fans to keep cheering because their team was winning, while the Guarani supporters in the stands should (roughly translated): “act like a chicken and put up an egg.” The ribbing refers to a joke in which the Pontepretano call the Guarani fans “scary chickens,” but that didn’t sit well with the visiting side, which became enraged — especially since the match was being televised live — and demanded that stadium police arrest the announcer.

The confrontations between fans and police became increasingly physical and soon the Guarani supporters were breaking and burning anything they could find in the stadium. After the match was over and Ponte Preta had earned a 2-0 victory (yes, for whatever reason, they did not abandon the match), the rioting spilled into the streets. The police retaliated with more violence.

According to a report from the Portuguese Web site Paulinia News, official figures showed 12 policemen and 15 fans were injured in the fray. In addition to costs for material damages, Ponte Preta and Guarani may be fined up to $100,000 each and could forfeit multiple league matches.


One Guarani fan’s wounds from a rubber bullet shot by stadium police. (Paulo Ricardo - Futura Press)
A 14-year-old rising freshman at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md., was one of those injured in the fray, suffering bruises on his arm and leg.

The boy’s father, Wilson Matos, said the experience alerted him that his native country may not be prepared to host the sport’s biggest spectacle in the summer of 2014.

“Brazil is not ready to host a World Cup yet. Not only are the stadiums behind schedule, but what worries me the most is how they are planning on taking care of fan safety in and around the stadiums. I’m ashamed of my home country — if my kid got beat up at a game, everyone visiting the country for a soccer match is vunerable as well.”

Furthermore, Matos said having fans of rival club teams seated side by side — or fans of rival nations seated next to Brazilian fans — is a recipe for trouble, particularly with alcohol sales permitted on stadium grounds.

The Brazilian Football Confederation, which has seen a long history of soccer hooliganism in the country, currently prohibits the sale of alcohol inside soccer stadiums. But with Anheuser-Busch as one of FIFA’s title sponsors for the World Cup, beer sales will be allowed at the various host venues.

And many fans of the Samba Boys may back that reversal, knowing the effect former national team fullback Branco said sex and alcohol had on the 1994 World Cup team’s performance. Here’s what Branco told the Telegraph last June:

“If it were a problem, then there wouldn’t be any football in England or Germany, where they drink beer, or in Italy, France and Argentina where they drink wine. It’s part of the culture.
“There was drink in ‘94, I conceived my son and everyone said we were perfect physically and tactically.”

Last December the host city of Rio de Janeiro hired IBM and other major international firms to help improve its emergency response capabilities. The public information management center in Cidade Nova was designed to forecast flash floods and landslides, but the government hopes to use its resources for sporting events, like the World Cup.

In March 2010, police in northern Brazil were placed under investigation for excessive use of force after they used pepper spray on two players from Genus who refused to leave the pitch after being sent off with red cards. Can Brazil clean up its act in time for the 2014 World Cup?

(H/T Wilson Matos)

By  |  10:26 AM ET, 07/21/2011

 
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