A match between Atletico Paranaense and relegation threatened Vasco da Gama on the final day of the Brasileiro season took an all too familiar descent into horrific violence that left at least three fans seriously injured. For Paranaense, a win meant a place in the Copa Libertadores and for Vasco, a loss meant relegation from the Brazilian first division. Just six minutes into the match, which was being played at a neutral ground due to previous clashes between these sides, Paranaense opened the scoring. In the 17th minute, large groups of fans were unimpeded from mercilessly beating each other.
The match was halted as players watched and pleaded with the fans to stop. TV cameras caught a group of people stomping on an unconscious man's body while another lifeless man was laid facedown across several rows of benches. One fan used a steel pipe with a screw jutting out of one end to beat people. Riot police finally moved in with shotguns that fired rubber bullets and separated the two groups while a military helicopter landed on the pitch to airlift one man of three men who were taken to a hospital.
(Video can be seen here, but it is highly disturbing.)
From the AP:
Television images showed players yelling at the fans and telling them to calm down. Some players put their hands on their heads as they watched the fight. A few fans tried to leave the stands to find safety, including a young woman. A ball girl was shown crying.
"We tried to tell the fans to stop because things would only get worse. We looked at the stands and there were no cops. There was nobody there to stop the fighting," said Atletico Paranaense defender Luiz Alberto, who was shown crying profusely as the altercation was taking place. "I'm playing for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this in person. We will have a World Cup in our country and we know these images will be shown everywhere." [...]
"This is very sad, I've never seen anything like this," Atletico Paranaense midfielder Everton said. "One of the fans was alone on the ground and he was being hit for about 10 minutes without anybody doing anything. They wouldn't stop hitting him."
According to an Atletico Paranaense official, the match was "a private event" so police were not inside the stadium and a private security force was hired instead. After an hour and 10 minutes, the match resumed and Paranaense won 5-1. A result that, despite its sporting implications, seemed like a meaningless afterthought to the savage images that preceded it.
Many in the media will be quick to haphazardly associate this incident and other acts of football related violence in Brazil with next year's World Cup in an attempt to inspire fear. Former DT contributor Brian Phillips recently wrote an excellent piece for Grantland detailing why incidents such as this are largely irrelevant to a major FIFA event like the World Cup (for one, security won't be left to 80 private security guards — that's for sure). I would highly recommend reading that before jumping to any conclusions.
UPDATE: According to Globo, a total of four men were hospitalized and contrary to initial reports, none of the fans are in comas or at risk of dying from their injuries.