In Europe, many view South American football as having a symbiotic relationship with violence due to the stories of injuries and fatalities experienced among fans. The issue is still a cause for concern in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup with recent fracas around football stadiums only serving to raise the level of apprehension for prospective travelling fans. But supporters should not give in to what is reported in the media, with the Samba nation very capable of, and determined to, put on a fantastic show in two years time.
While the problem of violence in Brazilian football is ongoing, it is not quite as prevalent as is so often portrayed. However, murders and altercations between fans are still too frequent and this puts a negative spin on what is a great footballing nation. This year has seen a sudden rise in the number of fatalities suffered by fans, with clashes in Sao Paulo, Goiana and Recife leading to a number of deaths while a group of Palmeiras fans were also shot at after their recent Copa do Brasil triumph, though the police denied this was football related.
Yet such acts are motivated by the strong rivalry between clubs. Police have therefore recently shut down a number of the infamous torcidas organizadas (organised supporters’ groups) who are typically heavily linked to the violence and banned them from attending games in order to combat the problem. However, the deaths still intimidate a number of foreign fans, as well as domestic fans which has contributed to the current attendance problem hitting the county, but the profile of supporters who will attend the World Cup in 2014 will be drastically different to that of the Brazilian domestic game. Furthermore, international football rivalries are by no means as intense.
But such an explanation alone will not be enough to convince fans of their safety, with issues of crime away from stadium also high in cities such as Rio de Janeiro. It is not made any easier by the scaremongering campaigns that crop up in the European media regarding foreign socieities.
Panorama’s ‘Stadiums of Hate’ documentary that was aired on the BBC ahead of Euro 2012 was the epitome of this sensationalistic reporting. The programme warned people against travelling to Poland and Ukraine, suggesting that all Polish football fans were anti-semitic Neo-Nazis looking to cause trouble. This proved not to be the case and it was borne out in the fact that much of the violence was committed by travelling fans and neither of the host nations. It merely picked on a negative part of Polish and Ukrainian society that does exist and blew it out of all proportion. After all, if you go searching for such issues in any country as that documentary was, you will likely find it.
In order to combat hooliganism in football, Brazil has asked the UK for help with matchday policing due to its crackdown on the issue in the 1980s. While violence in the English Premier League is now extremely rare due to competent police work, other recent events such as the Student Fees protest and Tottenham riots do not reflect greatly on Britain’s ability to control mass crowds. Along with recent worries over the security for the London Olympics, it proves that no country is perfect at eliminating concerns over safety.
The violence in Brazilian football is widely viewed as an extension of the disrupted, criminalised society and authorities have recently stepped up their stance on violent crime, confiscating and burning guns to take them out of circulation. It is hoped that this will translate to a reduction of crime in other aspects of society, including in football.
Somewhat paradoxically however, one of Brazil’s methods to reduce violence at football matches has been undone by FIFA. The international governing body of football insisted that alcoholic beverages must be sold at stadiums, despite its sale being prohibited in Brazil in 2003. The Brazilian football confederation (CBF) did not fully concede however and alcohol sales will remain forbidden in the domestic leagues.
Stories of brutal crimes in Brazil’s big cities are all to frequent, but these are due to huge social inequalities. Moreover, they can be seen in any large city across the globe and are not exclusive to Brazil. The previous edition of the World Cup in South Africa past without a hitch despite similar concerns.
The Brazilian police will be desperate to put on a huge show of strength at World Cup 2014, particularly with the Olympic Games heading to Rio de Janeiro two years later. Prospective visitors for the world’s greatest football tournament should not be put off of travelling to Brazil due to the acts of a minority.
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