Football
8 months ago

We were more worried about clash than playing the match, says Messi

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The start of the World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was delayed by half an hour after violent clashes between police and visiting fans at Maracana Stadium in the early hours of Wednesday.

Locals and Argentinian fans started fighting behind one of the goals during the playing of the national anthems, prompting the Brazilian police to charge at the travelling contingent with night sticks drawn.

Some Argentina fans responded by ripping up and throwing seats at the officers as nearby fans panicked and came onto the pitch to escape the fighting.

One Argentina fan lay prone on the pitch with a bloodied face before being taken from the stadium on a stretcher.

The Argentina team, led by captain Lionel Messi, went over to the terraces to try and calm the situation before leaving the pitch and returning to the dressing room, according to Reuters and Associated Press.

“There was family of the players (there). We were more worried about that than playing the match,” Messi said after the match. “We did that (going to the locker room) because that was the way to make it all calm. From below, we couldn’t do much, we saw how they (police) hit people.”

"We saw how they were hitting the people, again repressing the people," Messi said in a pitchside television interview.

"It already happened in the Libertadores final. We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy."

There were also violent clashes between fans of Argentina's Boca Juniors and Brazil's Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro ahead of the Copa Libertadores final between the clubs earlier this month.

On Tuesday, the Argentina players eventually returned once the police had corralled the visiting fans in a pen and the match started after a lengthy delay.

Argentina won 1-0 with a 63rd-minute headed winner from defender Nicolas Otamendi and celebrated the victory over their fiercest rivals in front of their fans at the same end of the ground where the trouble had occurred.

It was a third straight defeat for five-times World Cup winners Brazil, who had midfielder Joelinton sent off 18 minutes from time.

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