Brazilian Football Violence Not Comparable to 2014 FIFA World Cup

Robbie BlakeleySpecial to Bleacher ReportDecember 10, 2013

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 8: Fans of Fluminense celebrate during the match between Fluminense and Bahia for the Brazilian Series A 2013 at Fonte Nova stadium on December 8, 2013 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Felipe Oliveira/Getty Images)
Felipe Oliveira/Getty Images

The barbaric and savage scenes that overshadowed the end to the Campeonato Brasileiro this past Sunday have led to a flurry of panic.

Brazil is six short months away from hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and video footage of fighting between Atletico Paranaense and Vasco da Gama supporters has now made its way around the globe.

To put the game into context, it was one of high stakes. Atletico, the home side, needed three points to guarantee qualification for next year's Copa Libertadores, South America's answer to the Champions League.

Vasco, meanwhile, were desperate to keep their slim chances of surviving relegation alive.

The game had already been moved from Atletico's home to neighbouring state Santa Catarina due to crowd trouble at an earlier match. But the major problem was with police, or rather the lack of.

Security at the ground was left to a private company and as violence erupted after 17 minutes they were left virtually toothless in the face of misconstrued passion.

The ground was terraced. The lack of seating gave those supporters willing to get involved in the fracas the freedom to launch themselves at their opposite numbers.

And after Atletico went in front early on, the highly charged atmosphere began to spill over.

What then ensued could so easily have ended in fatal tragedy. Miraculously no one was killed, although 19-year-old William Batista was airlifted to hospital with a fractured skull.

Incredibly, after over an hour of deliberation, it was decided the match would continue. Atletico went on to thrash Vasco 5-1, condemning the Rio club to their second relegation in five years.

But it was merely the sub-plot on a day when violence stole the headlines. Brazilian football was the big loser in a year that has now been sandwiched by major acts of thoughtless thuggery.

Back in February, 14-year-old Kevin Beltran Espada was killed at a Copa Libertadores tie in Bolivia between San Jose and Corinthians.

A flare launched by the Corinthians fans struck the Bolivian teenager in the face. Twelve people were arrested in connection with the incident but none were formally charged.

Unfortunately, a comparison to the World Cup next year is inevitable. But the chances of a repeat of the scenes in Santa Catarina are minimal.

The prospect of street crime and getting caught up in the vast political protests that are expected to sweep the land are a risk, but the sort of scenes that were broadcasted on Sunday are not likely to happen in any World Cup stadium, due to the differences in attitude towards club and international football.

There still remains in Brazilian club football a pack mentality, which, given the wrong set of circumstances, can resemble two armies clashing over a piece of land.

On Sunday, as fans went at each other with anything from fists to wooden bars with nails embedded in the top, players remonstrated with supporters to stop. Their calls fell on deaf ears as mob rule took over.

Part of the problem lies with the role the torcida organizada play in domestic football here. Brazil is a vast country and the distances fans would have to cover normally mean the organized factions are the only representatives at an away fixture.

Whilst the Selecao Brasileira can be an obsession, the same aggression is not associated with the national side. Corinthians vs. Palmeiras, Flamengo vs. Vasco, Gremio vs. Internacional, rather than matches on the international calendar are synonymous with supporter clashes.

Even last week, the supposed celebration of Cruzeiro's first league title in a decade was marred by violence as fighting broke out between supporters of the same club. The same happened in 2009 as Flamengo fans waited to buy tickets for the league's final game against Gremio, when a win would have taken the club to their first title in 17 years.

Sunday's images are lamentable to say the least. But club football and all it entails remains a completely different beast to the Brazilian national side and the implications for the World Cup next year.