Brazil-Argentina marred by crowd trouble, police violence as players try to intervene

Police try to stop a fight between Brazilian and Argentinian fans that broke out prior to a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026 between Brazil and Argentina at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023.(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina was delayed and marred by brawling fans and violent police at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.

The ugly scenes ignited just minutes before a much-anticipated match, perhaps Lionel Messi’s last in Brazil, was scheduled to begin. Brazilian police wielding batons appeared to attack a section of Argentina fans behind one goal. Their aggression was reportedly triggered by fights between those fans and Brazilian counterparts, during and after pregame national anthems had been sung and booed.

Multiple fans were injured. At least one left the stadium on a stretcher. Several were pictured bleeding from their heads. Dislodged seats were weaponized. Some fans attempted to escape the madness, and avoid a crush, by hopping down onto the field.

The violence caught the attention of concerned Argentine players, who watched on from near midfield. They soon walked over toward the scene, and hopped over advertising boards, seemingly in an effort to restore calm. Brazilian captain Marquinhos joined them.

The fighting, though, continued. As it did, Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez pushed his way toward the facing of the stands, and attempted to scale the wall and physically intervene. He grabbed at a policeman, but was repelled by officers and then restrained by teammates.

Having seen the violence up close, Argentina players then exited the field. Messi appeared to tell them: “We’re leaving. We can’t play in these circumstances.”

They stayed in the locker room for roughly 22 minutes. They returned only when relative calm had been restored. After a brief warmup, and 27 minutes after the game had been scheduled to kickoff, it finally did.

The two storied rivals were tied 0-0 at halftime.

This is a developing story and will be updated.


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