ARGENTINIAN football club Tigre has accused Brazilian police of pulling guns on its players, causing them to refuse to emerge from the dressing room after half time, leaving Sao Paulo to be declared cup final winners.
The incident at the Copa Sudamericana on Wednesday, in which Tigre said they were attacked by around 20 men, followed a brawl involving players and officials as the teams left the pitch at half time in the second leg of the final at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi stadium.
It was the latest in a series of controversies involving Brazilian police at football matches and comes just 18 months before Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup.
“They pulled two guns on us, the rest of the match is not going to be played,” Tigre coach Nestor Gorosito said.
“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 around 20 of them.”
Argentine media carried photographs of a blood-stained dressing room and comments from players saying they were hit with sticks.
The chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo, before a sell-out crowd of 65,000, will dismay Fifa, the governing body of world football, which has already been frustrated by slow preparations for the World Cup.
Most of Fifa’s angst so far has been focused on getting stadiums and new infrastructure in place. Now security also looms as a concern for the World Cup, which will be played at 12 venues across the country.
Violence on and off the pitch still blights many matches in South America, with Brazil and Argentina particularly troubled. For the World Cup, Fifa relies on local officials and police to enforce safety and stadiums, with Wednesday’s match raising doubts about Brazil’s capability of doing so.
As soon as the referee signalled the end of the match, Sao Paulo players hugged each other and began celebrating. They were then handed the trophy by officials from Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation.
Thousands of celebrating fans filled one of Sao Paulo’s main streets, the Avenida Paulista.
“They were going to lose by a big score,” Sao Paulo president Juvenal Juvencio told the club’s website. “Our biggest victory is the fact that the Argentines ran away.”
Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni accused Tigre’s players of spoiling for a fight.
He said: “They came here to fight, not to play. We are not worried. I don’t know what happened inside the dressing room.”
Tigre players remained in their dressing-room for three hours after the incident and then went to a police station to make an official complaint.
A small club based just outside Buenos Aires, Tigre were angry before kick-off after officials tried to stop their players warming up on the pitch. The players managed to dodge officials by leaping over advertising hoardings.
Brazil has a history of police intervention on the field with one of the most notorious incidents also involving an Argentine side at the Morumbi in April 2005.
Quilmes defender Leandro Desabato was arrested for alleged racism during a Libertadores Cup game against Sao Paulo following a first-half incident with opposing forward Grafite.
In 2002, Santos defender Preto was knocked unconscious when a policeman hit him on the head with a truncheon.