back in the 70s and 80s at english football grounds often ... ?· these were the scenes in...
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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,
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
...and in the tunnel, too (last photo, above). At least that game reached its
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