- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SAO PAULO (AP) - The Brazilian soccer team that was relegated in a match stopped because of fan violence will ask the country’s sports tribunal to annul the result.

Vasco da Gama said Tuesday it deserves the three points for the match because it wasn’t safe to keep playing after the brawl in the stands. If Vasco is awarded the points, it would be enough to avoid its second relegation in five years.

Vasco, a four-time Brazilian champion, needed a victory in last weekend’s final-round match but lost 5-1.

Club officials said the referee did not follow regulations when he waited 73 minutes to restart the game. Rules say the maximum is 60 minutes.

“The referee made a mistake. We are allowed to go after our rights,” Vasco da Gama director Ercolino de Luca said. “There were no conditions to continue the match.”

The referee interrupted the game in the southern city of Joinville in the 17th minute when hundreds of fans from Vasco and Atletico Paranaense charged each other in the stands. Private security guards were left to separate fans until police arrived to take control.

A police helicopter landed on the field to airlift one of the four men injured in the fighting, the latest case of fan violence in the country hosting next year’s World Cup.

Vasco da Gama officials tried to keep the match from continuing but the referee deemed there was enough security to restart.

Flavio Zveiter, president of the sports tribunal, said it isn’t likely the result of the match will be changed.

“It’s too early to know because we still haven’t received the complaint,” he told the UOL Web portal and other local media. “But the general rule is that what happened on the field must be confirmed.”

Separately, the tribunal is expected to convene Friday to analyze possible punishments for Vasco da Gama and Atletico Paranaense. Each team could lose home-field advantage for up to 20 matches. Local federations may also be fined by the tribunal because of Sunday’s violence.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari condemned the fan violence.

“We can’t call them fans, they are anti-fans,” Scolari told Brazilian media at an event Tuesday in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. “It was a tragedy that cannot be repeated. We need these vandals to be punished to the full extent of the law.”

The violence happened in a stadium that was on the list of possible training centers for next year’s World Cup. Public prosecutors want the venue closed in 2014.

“It was an isolated case,” Scolari said. “It won’t interfere with the World Cup.”

Later Tuesday, public prosecutors suspended an Atletico fan group for six months, but the action only keeps members from wearing the group’s shirts or carrying its flags and banners inside stadiums. Members will still be able to attend matches.

One Vasco da Gama’s fan group released a statement denying any wrongdoing and said they acted in self-defense, a similar claim made by Atletico Paranaense supporters.

Fan groups are at the root of stadium violence in Brazil, with many fights pre-arranged on the Internet. After the images of Sunday’s fight made their way across the world, the Brazilian government said it was pushing for changes that would allow for stricter punishment of violent fans. Only three of the hundreds of fans fighting on Sunday were detained.

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