"Torcidas" brasileras se enfrentan en las calles

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) — In contrast to the delight over the World Cup prospects for Brazil’s national soccer team, a new round of fan violence has gripped the domestic scene.
Several people have been killed in recent weeks in bloody confrontations between fanatical supporters of rival clubs.
Police with clubs and riot shields regularly square off against supporters.
The fans are grouped in organizations called «torcidas» such as the Gavioes da Fiel («The Loyal Hawks»), supporters of Corinthians, the favorite team of Sao Paulo’s working class and poor.
But much of the violence takes place away from the stadiums and reflects the violence that lurks in Brazil’s city streets.
«This is not a problem of the sport but a social and economic problem of Brazil,» said Fernando Capez, a Sao Paulo state prosecutor. «If we don’t do anything about it now, the deaths will continue.»
Although such violence has traditionally afflicted Brazilian soccer, recent incidents have brought new calls for police and authorities to deal with it.
This past weekend, a 20-year-old fan was hacked to death with a sickle in a clash between fans from the rival Rio de Janeiro clubs Flamengo and Botafogo. Dozens were arrested.
Two sets of fans were returning home when the Botafogo bus stopped with a flat tire. Flamengo fans pulled up and a fight with sticks and stones broke out. Botafogo fan Rafick da Silva Cancio was killed with a sickle that had been lying by the roadside.
«The assassination of a Botafogo fan was not an isolated incident,» Globo newspaper said in an editorial. «The penal code must be applied with rigor … specific punishment against unrest, adopted with success in Europe, must be followed.»
The worry over the bloodshed occurs as Brazilian soccer fans are looking forward to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Many observers favor the Brazilian national team, with stars such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and newcomers Adriano and Robinho, to win a sixth World Cup.
All those stars play abroad. At home, however, the off-field action is in the headlines.
Last month before a match in Sao Paulo, a Palmeiras fan was shot dead during an argument with Corinthians supporters in a subway station. A few hours later a Corinthians fan was killed in a separate fight.
A surveillance camera recorded the first melee in which fans lobbed homemade bombs at each other and a man fired a pistol into a crowd of rival fans.
The torcidas are popular gathering places for Brazil’s poor and disenchanted youth, many of whom grow up in violent slums where crime and drug wars rage.
Violent society
«Football violence is a mirror of Brazil’s violent society,» said Marcos Lopes, a leader of Sao Paulo’s 11,000-member Independente torcida.
A day after the subway killing, several Independente members were arrested for beating to death a rival team’s fan with wooden sticks and metal pipes.
«I don’t think the violence can be really stopped,» said Lopes, a clean-cut, 27-year-old college student, speaking at the torcida’s graffiti-splattered headquarters.
Most members are from the favelas, or shantytowns, that surround Sao Paulo, he said.
The deaths prompted the police to call on torcida leaders, local officials and soccer federation leaders to help them find ways to stop the bloodshed.
Among the proposals were forbidding game-day ticket sales to keep rival fans from clashing at ticket counters, barring alcohol sales around the stadiums, and forbidding fans from wearing their team’s jerseys.
Copyright 2005 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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