Tunnel bust-ups and guns spark safety fears over 2014 Brazil World Cup
Argentine side Tigre claim they were attacked by police and stadium staff but Fifa insists finals security worries unfounded
Thursday 13 December 2012
Fifa was tonight forced to insist that the dramatic and traumatic scenes at Wednesday night's Copa Sudamericana final in Sao Paulo will not be repeated at the 2014 World Cup.
The second leg of the final of the competition, between Brazilian side Sao Paulo and Argentina's Tigre, was abandoned when the visitors refused to come out for the second half after violence on the pitch spilled over into the tunnel and the dressing rooms at half-time. Tigre said that they were attacked by Brazilian security staff and that they were fortunate no one was killed.
This is embarrassing for Fifa, given that the 2013 Confederations Cup and 2014 World Cup will both be held in Brazil. Last night a Fifa statement washed its hands of responsibility and said it was "not involved in this match operation". Fifa then insisted its "comprehensive security concept" would head off any such problems in the major international tournaments.
"For the Fifa Confederations Cup and the Fifa World Cup there will be a comprehensive security concept for the stadiums in place developed by the local organising committee together with the respective authorities and reviewed by the Fifa security experts," the world governing body said in a statement.
The use of private stewards and trained and certified security officers should, according to Fifa, prevent a repeat in future of these unpleasant scenes: "The Fifa Confederations Cup will be the first football competition in Brazil to use mainly private stewards for safety and spectator services as it is already a standard procedure in many countries around the world.
"This is already a legacy as through this initiative more than 30,000 security officers will be trained and certified to work during the Fifa Confederations Cup and Fifa World Cup in Brazil. Fifa has full confidence in the security arrangements developed."
The trouble on Wednesday started during a tempestuous first half. The Copa Sudamericana is the South American equivalent of the Europa League and before half-time there was an incident between Sao Paulo midfielder Lucas Moura and some Tigre players.
This led to more confrontations but it was the violence in the tunnel and the dressing room that prompted Tigre's refusal to come back out onto the pitch. The referees awarded the match, and therefore the trophy, to Sao Paulo. This frightening game took place at the Morumbi stadium, which will not be used at the World Cup.
The Tigre goalkeeper, Damian Albi, described the scenes at half-time and said that his team-mates' safety would have been at risk had they come back out to play. "The fight lasted 15 minutes," he said. "A lot of security people came to us and attacked us. Suddenly, I realise that I had a gun against my chest. If we did go out to play, it would be a battle in the field. There was no security, it was impossible to play. Something worse could have happened."
Nestor Gorosito, the Tigre coach, said that the police did nothing to stop the violence. "During the break, a big guy came out with a gun," he said. "Some policemen started to hit some of my players. We tried to defend ourselves. My players fought with the security people for 15 minutes. Then the police arrived and the incidents continued."
"It was unbelievable," added the Tigre assistant coach, Jorge Borelli. "I have never seen anything like this. We're lucky someone wasn't killed."
Tigre's mayor and former club president Sergio Massa said it brought shame on Brazil. "When we went into the dressing room after the first half, there were 15 security people that were hitting the players. They struck us. It's one of the most shameful pages in Brazilian football. We came to play a game of football, not a war."
There was little contrition and some apparent pride from the hosts over the incident, as those from Sao Paulo lined up to criticise their visitors. "They were there with their tongues out with fear because we had 67,000 fans in the stands," boasted the Sao Paulo president, Juvenal Juvencio. "They knew they were to going to concede many more goals in the second half, so they decided to leave."
"There were no guns as they said. Tigre is a small team – nobody had heard of them 15 days ago. We will celebrate twice: the Argentinians' runaway was our biggest victory."
Ney Franco, the Sao Paulo coach, also denied that there had even been any violence. "Let's be honest," he said. "There was no fighting, no guns. Tigre didn't come out for the second half because they pipocaram [chickened out]."
Brazilian football writer James Young told The Independent that the authorities had a responsibility. "Conmenbol is an astonishingly negligent organisation," he said. "Crowd disturbances, coin throwing etc are common in the Copa Libertadores, and nothing is ever done. Many stadiums across the continent are in a state of considerable disrepair."
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