Brazilian police and football authorities traded blame Wednesday after a brawl broke out ahead of Brazil’s match against arch-rivals Argentina, leaving several injured in what fans called a “tragedy foretold.”
Brazil’s football fan clubs association, ANATORG, said government authorities and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) were “negligent” in seating rival fans next to each other at Tuesday’s epic clash in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, with no barriers separating them.
The 2026 World Cup qualifier, which Argentina won 1-0, had to be delayed for around 30 minutes when rival fans started throwing punches before kickoff. Police fought back the melee with batons, leaving some fans with bloodied faces and other injuries.
“The negligence and incompetence of the CBF and security officials resulted in the brawl,” said ANATORG, which had issued a statement Monday warning of the risk of violence, given the mixed seating plan.
“This was a tragedy foretold,” it said.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino meanwhile said there is “absolutely no place for violence in football.”
“Players, fans, staff and officials have to be safe and secure,” he wrote on Instagram.
The iconic stadium descended into chaos Tuesday night, as players tried in vain to get fans to stop the fray. Argentina captain Lionel Messi led his team back to the dressing room, returning only after the violence had been quelled.
Rio state police called the events “deplorable,” and accused the CBF of meeting with its commanders to discuss security plans only after tickets had sold out with a mixed seating plan.
“The CBF decided to release tickets for sale without country quotas and, worse, without delimiting separate seating areas,” it said in a statement.
The CBF rejected accusations of negligence.
“State police and other authorities were aware of the plan to use mixed seating, which is the standard for matches organized by FIFA,” it said in a statement.
“The organization and planning of the match were carefully and strategically carried out by the CBF, together with the authorities, especially the police.”
After the match, Messi criticized the police “repression” of fans, posting on social media: “This can’t be tolerated! It’s craziness, it needs to stop.”
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