SAO PAULO (AP) - The image of Brazilian soccer in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup took a hit Wednesday when the final of the Copa Sudamericana was abandoned after visiting club Tigre accused security officials of pulling guns and beating its players.
“What happened at the final was a serious setback to Brazil’s image as host of next years’ Confederations’ Cup and the World Cup,” Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil’s leading sports commentators said by telephone.
Officials of the Argentine club said their players and staff were beaten by security officials in the dressing room area at halftime and guns were drawn. The trouble off the pitch followed scuffles between the teams at the end of the first half.
Nestor Gorosito, the coach of Tigre, declined to take his team back on the field for the second half. He said security officials pulled guns on his players while others clubbed players and team officials.
“Rocks were hurled at the bus carrying the Argentine players to the stadium. They were not allowed to practice at the stadium and the team’s private guards were reported to have threatened the Argentine players with guns” Kfouri said. “These barbaric things took place all the time last century between the 1920s and 1970s. It is a sad return through the tunnel of time to the deplorable past of South American football.”
“A past that caused European teams like Milan and Real Madrid to refuse to come to South America to dispute the Intercontinental Cup” the predecessor to the Club World Cup, he added.
The chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo, before a sellout crowd of 65,000 at Morumbi stadium, is sure to trouble FIFA _ the governing body of world soccer _ which already has been frustrated by slow preparations for the World Cup.
Most of FIFA’s angst so far has been focused on getting stadiums and new infrastructure in place. Now security also looms as a concern for the World Cup, which will be played at 12 venues across the country.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think what happened on Wednesday will prompt FIFA to take any specific action regarding violence and security, and by Monday this whole thing will be forgotten,” Kfouri said.
Violence on and off the pitch still blights many matches in South America, with Brazil and Argentina particularly affected. For the World Cup, FIFA relies on local officials and police to enforce safety at the stadiums.
With the 2016 Summer Games slated for Rio de Janeiro, Olympic officials also are sure to review the incident.
The trouble at the Morumbi stemmed from confrontations between the teams following a first half in which the hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on goals from Lucas and Osvaldo.
It was unclear what happened in the dressing room area, but Argentine television showed what appeared to be blood-spattered walls. Argentine television also showed several Tigre staff members with bruises and bloody faces.