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  • Back in the 70s and 80s at English football grounds often there was on offer

    some pre-match and/or half-time entertainment. Basically down the City that

    meant girls not wearing very much - a couple of strategically-placed rosettes -

    the Wurzels or some seals (not our Australian striker of the same name,

    unfortunately).

    From top left: leggy 80s birds do the half-time City Society draw (the name was felt-

    tipped onto the tombola! How City/Les Kew is that?!); even leggier 70s City birds, the

    famous Rockin Robins get their hands on City character Stoney Garnett; Mr J Jenkins in

    1935; couple of likely lads on trial at half-time for the City; and some 80s majorettes who

    probably dropped their batons less often than John Vaughan in his 5 loan games in the 80s.

  • There was also Mr Joseph Jenkins (above) who would organise singing among

    the crowd in the 30s, too, but lets not go down that path today. Blimey. More

    or less you could expect a bit of 70s sexism (scantily clad girls) or some dodgy

    animal welfare (performing sea-life), but what about a helicopter (see first

    photo, page 1)?

    Probably not, although of course there were occasional performances by

    dare-devil nutters jumping through rings of fire or crew-cuts from the Armed

    Forces running round in their gear and abseiling down from somewhere.

    But helicopters landing on the pitch during the game didnt happen, at least

    not according to my (albeit sketchy) memory. If you want this sort of

    aeronautical exhibition you gotta go to Brazil, home of World Cup 2014.

    But you might have to put up with some of this, too:

    These were the scenes in December as Vasco da Gama played host to Atletico

    Paranaense in the Arena Joinville, (neither teams home ground it was being

    used as Atletico PR were being punished for previous violence).

  • Not being a close follower of Brazilian football, its not easy to write about

    these events from the other side of the world. One man who is in situ and is a

    respected voice, however, is Tim Vickery, who wrote the following:

    One of the wisest quotes I know about the global game comes from the

    Liverpool academic Rogan Taylor. "Football," he says, "is like strong beer.

    Some people just cant take it."

    So many times in Brazil I have been asked how it came to pass that English

    football eliminated its problem of violence. I always answer that such thinking

    is dangerously complacent. The problem is never eliminated. Crowd

    psychology being what it is, the possibility of a violent flare-up always exists --

    and therefore such risks need to be taken into account when the spectacle is

    being organised. This clearly did not happen on Sunday December 8th (2013)

    in Brazil. The last round of the championship always generates strong

    emotions, which spilled into tragedy in the match between Atletico Paranaense

    and Vasco da Gama.

    There was plenty at stake for both teams -- Vasco trying to avoid relegation to

    the second division, while Atletico were seeking to secure a place in next years

    version of the Copa Libertadores, South Americas equivalent of the

    Champions League. Atletico were the home side. But the game did not take

    place in their city of Curitiba, in the south of Brazil. As a punishment for

    supporter behaviour in a previous game, Atletico had to stage the match at

    least 100 kilometers away. The chosen venue, which Atletico have already used

    this year, was Joinville, in the neighbouring state of Santa Catarina.

    This state has adopted a curious, and surely utopian, practice. Security inside

    the stadiums is not provided by the normal police, but by private companies.

    For this game, with an electrical emotional charge, such a strategy was clearly

    insufficient. The ground was nowhere near full, and a huge space existed

    between the supporters of both sides. But there was nothing to stop fans

    moving round the stadium -- no line of security guards, no fences to divide the

    ground into sectors.

    The emotional stakes were raised still higher when Atletico took an early lead.

    Within minutes groups of rival fans were meeting in pitched battles on the

    terraces. As the kicks, punches and iron bar blows flowed, three supporters

    were left in a state of coma. A huge national TV audience witnessed scenes of

    revolting violence - scenes which will take on an extra international dimension

    because so many representatives of the global media were still in Brazil at the

    time, following Decembers World Cup draw.

  • Thankfully, however, a repetition of such scenes next June and July is surely

    highly unlikely. There are, clearly, security concerns. In addition to Brazils

    street crime and the possibility of political protest getting out of control, there

    is also the near certainty that thousands of Argentine fans will cross the border

    to follow their team. The chance of a violent flare-up always exists. (See below!)

    But it is almost impossible that such a thing could happen inside the stadiums.

    For a start there will be a level of organisation and adequate risk analysis that

    was so glaringly absent from Sundays match in Joinville. And also because, in

    terms of the Brazilian context, the national team has always attracted a

    different type of fan from the club game. The follower of the Selecao is usually

    more middle class and less inclined to get involved in the fierce rivalries that

    move Brazilian club football -- and which currently give Brazil the totally

    undesirable title of current world leader in football-related fatalities.

    The dreadful scenes of Sunday, then, hopefully have little connection with the

    mega-event set to take place in seven months time. But if the global impact of

    the scenes in Joinville help concentrate minds on the dangers inherent in the

    gathering of a crowd, at least something positive will have emerged from a

    black Sunday for Brazilian football.

    Tim Vickery has lived in Brazil and commented on South American football

    since 1994, so there can be little doubt as to the authority with which he

    speaks. Listen to him for five minutes on any radio station where he appears

    (eg BBC Radio Five Lives weekly Friday night World Football phone-in on

    Dotun Adebayos Up All Night show) or read one or two articles by him in the

    myriad publications in which he writes, both online and in paper format (eg

    World Soccer magazine) and you know you are in the presence of someone

    who is not just knowledgeable, but is also engaging to listen to/read. No statto,

    he brings in a wealth of cultural, socio-political and wider influences to bear on

    both his relaying of information and his well-judged opinion.

    So he should know about Brazilian trouble and whether visitors to the World

    Cup next June can expect a horror show in the stands, one topped off with

    rubber bullets and a helicopter landing in the penalty area.

    But Brazil, and South American football in general, has been going through a

    particularly rough period for fan-related violence this past decade or so. 2013

    saw a record number of 30 deaths related to football. Between 1999 and 2008

    there were 42 football-related deaths; in 2012 the number reached 29 for a

    single year, followed by that total of one more in 2013.

  • In February 2013, a flare fired by Corinthians fans killed Kevin Espada, a 14-

    year-old supporter attending a Libertadores Cup game against San Jose in

    Oruro, Bolivia. A couple of months later, some of the Brazilian hooligans who

    had been arrested by Bolivian authorities, one of them a So Paulo city

    councillor, were involved in a punch-up at the Mane Garrincha National

    Stadium, one of the World Cup venues, in a match against Vasco.

    But its not just the fans who are at it.

    As you can see below, the players can get a bit tasty too. These shots are from

    when violent clashes erupted in Brazil last April between players and the

    military after Ronaldinho inspired Atletico Mineiro to a thumping 5-2 victory

    over Argentinian rivals Arsenal in the Libertadores Cup. Visiting Argentines

    attacked match officials and were met with Brazilian military power on the

    pitch...

    ...and in the tunnel, too (last photo, above). At least that game reached its

    conclusion, mind.

  • The Sud Americana final at the Estdio Ccero Pompeu de Toledo in So

    Paulo, Brazil, about a twelve month ago (December 12th 2012) was abandoned.

    These men were very big. We had to defend ourselves using sticks and

    bottles and they did the same. Sod yer pitch invasion v the gAss, flaming hell.

    In the prestigious two-legged continental cup final of 2012s Copa Bridgestone

    de Clubes - the equivalent perhaps of our UEFA Cup - unfancied Club Atltico

    Tigre of Buenos Aires, Argentina and the more illustrious So Paulo FC of

    Brazil fought a 0-0 first leg stalemate in Argentina on December 5th, before

    lining up to do battle in the return a week later.

    Even before the game kicked off controversy hung over the fixture as Tigre

    squad members accused local officials of trying to stop their players warming

    up on the pitch. A bit feistier than the Gloucestershire Cup Final, as you can

    imagine. So Paulo scored twice before the break before all

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