Copa Sudamericana Final Ends in Violence

[All links lead to Portuguese language pages unless otherwise stated.]

The heated final match of the Copa Sudamericana on the 12 December, 2012 at the Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, between Brazilian team São Paulo FC and Club Atletico Tigre, from Argentina, ended unexpectedly. And violently, too.

After an eventful first half which ended with São Paulo leading 2-0, a fight broke out between the players after alleged provocations from the Argentinian side. The fight spilled into the changing rooms, where Tigre players and their coaches claim to have suffered aggression from the Military Police and the Brazilian team's security staff.

Tigre's official Twitter account (@catigreoficial) first announced [es] the police's attack on the players and then concluded by stating [es] that the players did not feel safe enough to continue. After the team's coach, Pipo Gorosito, refused to return to the pitch, the game's suspension was in the end confirmed on Twitter by the Copa Sudamericana (@CBS_oficial). After a few minutes, Chilean referee Enrique Osses put a definitive end to the match.

Video showing the ruckus at half-time, before the aggression allegedly suffered by the Tigre players:

Journalist Vinicius Grissi (@viniciusgrissi) reproduced the Tigre players’ complaint:

Representante do Tigre diz ter levado uma coronhada (de fato está inchado) e diz que pelo menos seis jogadores estão sangrando ou machucados

Tigre representative says to have received a blow from the butt of a gun (he does in fact have a swelling) and says that at least six players are bleeding or injured

Journalist Rodrigo Cardia criticised Tigre, saying that, if things did get violent, they should have taken to the pitch to complain instead of hiding in the changing rooms, but that even so, their claim is serious and must be investigated. Publicist Rodrigo Weber (@RodrigoWeber) criticised the South American Football Confederation [Conmebol] for the lack of information:

Conmebol deveria ter explicado para o público no Estádio e para a imprensa tudo o que aconteceu e o porquê da decisão que foi tomada.

Conmebol should have explained to the public in the stadium and to the press everything that had happened and the reason for the decision that was taken.

São Paulo supporters celebrate in the Morumbi Stadium during the match against Tigre. Photo by Cleber Machado, with the permission of Creative Commons.

São Paulo supporters celebrate in the Morumbi Stadium during the match against Tigre. Photo by Cleber Machado, with the permission of Creative Commons.

The allegations of violence spread. Tigre players revealed bruises and clots. Fox Sports Latinoamérica, the only television network given access to the players, tweeted images of blood on the changing room walls. Journalist Mauricio Stycer (@MauricioStycer) reported that the Major of the local Military Police had broken up a fight between São Paulo's security staff and Tigre players, which could confirm the players’ allegations of violence:

PM: “Quando chegamos lá, a briga já estava generalizada. Entre jogadores do Tigre e seguranças do São Paulo”.

Military Police: “When we arrived, the fight had already begun between Tigre players and São Paulo security guards”.

Alexandre de Santi, who writes for football blog Impedimento, explained:

A baderna TERIA COMEÇADO nos túneis. A primeira informação na volta do intervalo seria de que dois jogadores TERIAM SIDO expulsos, um de cada time. Mas o site da Conmebol só confirma o vermelho para Paulo Miranda. (…) O São Paulo estava pronto para jogar o segundo tempo (…) quando a demora do Tigre começou a soar estanha. Contávamos 23 minutos de intervalo e nada dos argentinos. Na primeira informação desencontrada, o Tigre TERIA alegado que havia sido agredido por seguranças do São Paulo, que TERIAM apontado uma arma para os jogadores.

The riot allegedly began in the changing room tunnels. The first report when the match restarted after half-time was that two players had been sent off, one from each team. But on their website Conmebol only states that Paulo Miranda received a red card. […] São Paulo was all ready to start the second half […] when the Argentinian team's delayed absence began to raise suspicions. We'd had 23 minutes of half-time and still no Argentinians. The first in a series of staggered reports said that Tigre alleged that they had been assaulted by São Paulo security guards, one of whom had pointed a gun at the team.

Online debate focused on the contested question of whether firearms had been used to intimidate the Argentinian players. Journalist Fernando “Gravz” believes that São Paulo security guards did not carry firearms, whereas Rodrigo Vianna (@rvianna), another journalist, emphasised the need to make sure that the “gun in question did not in fact belong to a member of the Argentinian team”. According to reports, after the match Tigre players did not tell the police that they had been threatened with a gun.

Lawyer Vinicius Duarte (@viniciusduarte) added more detail to the picture with a testimony from the Military Police:

PM: “Armas de fogo=ZERO, a briga tinha uns 10 seguranças do SP contra toda a equipe e CT do Tigre. Só separamos.”

Military Police: “There were zero firearms. The fight was 10 or so security guards from the São Paulo side against the entire Tigre team and their coaches. We only broke things up.”

Journalist Alexandre Lozetti (@Ale_Lozetti) relayed the reports of José Francisco Manssur, advisor to the President and one of São Paulo FC's lawyers, that the Tigre players had tried to break into São Paulo's changing room and were prevented by unarmed security guards, at which point “the Argentinians ransacked the changing rooms”.

Journalist Menon summarised what had happened on his blog:

1) Versão do Tigre – Os jogadores foram atacados, no vestiário, por seguranças do São Paulo. Havia uma arma. Os jogadores apanharam muito. Três ou quatro ficaram sem condições físicas de voltar a campo.

2) Versão do São Paulo – Os jogadores do Tigre, continuando a briga do final do primeiro tempo, invadiram o vestiário do São Paulo. Os seguranças do clube defenderam os jogadores e houve confronto.

Eu considero as duas versões fantasiosas. Difícil acreditar. Seja qual for a verdade, ela é vergonhosa, é um acinte ao futebol.

1) The “Tigre” version: The players were attacked in the changing rooms by São Paulo security. There was a gun. The players were beaten several times. Three or four were so badly injured that they could not return to the pitch.

2) The “São Paulo” version: The Tigre players, continuing the fight that started at the end of the first half, broke into São Paulo's changing rooms. The Brazilian team's security guards defended the players and there was some kind of confrontation.

I think both versions are imaginary. Difficult to believe. Whatever the truth actually is, it's embarrassing, an insult to football.

André Kfouri commented on the possibility of punishment [es] for both teams, unconvinced, however, of their execution:

Por enquanto, fala-se até em excluir o Tigre da próxima Copa Libertadores. O São Paulo receberia uma multa pesada e perderia mandos de jogos do torneio no ano que vem.

For the time being, it seems likely that Tigre will be suspended from the next Copa Libertadores. São Paulo could receive a hefty fine and lose “mandos de jogos” in next year's tournament [translator's note: the team with the “mandos de jogos” gains the right to organise the match, play the opposing team at home and claim the revenue from ticket sales].

Indeed, several members of the Twitter community did not hesitate to compare the situation with the notorious Rojas case [en] in the 1990 World Cup heats.

São Paulo supporters celebrate in the Morumbi Stadium during the game against Tigres. Photo by Cleber Machado, with the permission of Creative Commons.

São Paulo supporters celebrate in the Morumbi Stadium during the game against Tigres. Photo by Cleber Machado, with the permission of Creative Commons.

Where will sports journalism end?

The usual complaints about media coverage also abounded. Professor Idelber Avelar (@iavelar) said that “Brazil continues to practise some of the worst sports journalism in the world” and exclaimed:

Duas emissoras de TV, dezenas de jornalistas no Morumbi, denúncias dos argentinos e ninguém sabe o que aconteceu. Parabéns, jornalismo!

Two television broadcasting stations, many journalists at the Morumbi Stadium, complaints from the Argentinian team, and still nobody knows what went on. Congratulations, journalism!

Though journalist Emerson Luis (@emerluis) praised Fox Sports, the only network to try and get to the bottom of what really happened, others criticised TV network Globo's coverage of the events. Impedimento (@impedimento), meanwhile, mentioned the torture and deaths that occurred in Chile's National Stadium during the Chilean military coup:

Bela cobertura da Fox. Globo, como disseram na timeline, poderia estar no Estádio Nacional do Chile em 1973 e só cobriria um jogo de futebol

Wonderful Fox coverage. Globo could have been in Chile's National Stadium in 1973 and would still only bother to cover a football match

Pedro Venâncio, from blog Trivela, wrote about the reaction of the foreign press:

Em vários momentos, a imprensa europeia não dá muita atenção para o futebol brasileiro, ou sul-americano. Uma notinha de rodapé aqui, uma chamada tímida ali, e segue o jogo, segue a vida, cada um no seu quadrado. Mas quando o assunto tem sangue no meio, amigo, a curiosidade é universal e a repercussão é forte em todo mundo

Time and again the European press has paid little attention to Brazilian football, or South American football for that matter. A footnote here, a timid reference there, and the game continues, life continues, each in its own little box. But when the game gets spattered with blood, my friend, the curiosity is univeral and the repercussions are heavy for everyone

Now we can only await a serious investigation about what really happened.

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