Thursday, December 13, 2012

Copa Sudamericana Ends in Controversy

“The Beautiful Game” is a synonym often associated with the beauty of soccer such as Lionel Messi’s record setting 88 goals this year or the Xolos of Tijuana winning the Mexican soccer league in only their fifth year of existence.  That saying unfortunately cannot be to the decisive game of the Copa Sudamericana soccer tournament on Wednesday night.

Officials with CONMEBOL (the Spanish abbreviation for the South American Football Confederation) announced that they would investigate allegations of violence during the match between visitors Argentina's Tigre and Sao Paulo of Brazil.  Members of Tigre refused to leave their dressing room after halftime due to an alleged attack by a gang of twenty men.

“CONMEBOL will undertake an investigation in order to apply sanctions.  In the twenty-five years under the rule of (CONMEBOL) President Nicolás Leoz it’s the first time that such actions stained the good mage of South American soccer,” said CONMEBOL spokesman Néstor Benítez to the Associated Press.

Benítez also urged Brazilian police to provide a “detailed report” of the events at the Morumbi stadium when the match was abandoned with the home side leading 2-0 and after a brawl between both teams.

“They pulled two guns on us, the rest of the match is not going to be played,” claimed Tigre coach Nestor Gorosito to Fox Sports. 

They ambushed us and one of them pulled out a revolver and put it against (goalkeeper) Damian Albil's chest. Their security and police also hit us, there were about 20 of them,” added Gorosito.

While the Tigre team stayed in their dressing room the referee signaled the end of the match.  Sao Paulo fans at the stadium celebrated the 2-0 aggregate victory while the players received the Copa Sudamericana from South American Football Confederation officials.

The jubilation may have been premature, however. Benítez claimed that Sao Paulo was “legally and irrefutably” declared the champions but he was contradicted by CONMEBOL Vice President Eugenio Figueredo.

“The referee can suspend, not call an end to a match,” said Figueredo who also raised the possibility that the uncontested second half could be played.

“(Tigre) came here to fight, not to play,” said Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni after the match while the club’s president, Juvenal Juvencio, told the club's website "Our biggest victory is the fact that the Argentines ran away."

As seen in the above video, the Argentine press highlighted bloodstains on the Tigre dressing room walls and players claimed people carrying sticks hit them.

The incidents at the Morumbi come eighteen months before Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup and appears to be the latest in a litany of police abuse at Brazilian soccer matches:
The Quilmes (Argentine team) defender Leandro Desabato was arrested on the field (in 2005) for alleged racism during a Libertadores Cup game against São Paulo following a first-half incident with opposing forward Grafite.
Desabato was held in custody for 40 hours, at one stage being handcuffed, before being released. The case was later dropped. 
In October 2002, the Santos defender Preto was knocked unconscious when a policeman hit him on the head with a truncheon as players protested about a refereeing decision in a match in Belem. 
In March 2006, riot police used pepper spray against brawling players during a Vasco da Gama-Flamengo derby at the Maracana stadium, where one policeman was seen with his arm around a player's neck. 
Two years later the Botafogo defender Andre Luis was arrested on the field and frog-marched out of the stadium by around 10 riot police after being sent off in a match at Nautico in the North-Easter city of Recife. His teammates were squirted with pepper spray.
Video Source– YouTube via user Noticias Perú

Online Sources – ESPN Deportes, The Guardian, BBC News, Voice of America, Los Angeles Times, El Universo

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