Last week, AtlÃÂ©tico Paranaense broke a 59-year-old club record in the ParanÃÂ¡ State championship by winning 12 matches in a row. Flamengo seized the TaÃÂ§a Guanabara in an electrifying final against Botafogo with a last minute net, in a sold out MaracanÃÂ£, while Bahia, for the first time in 14 years, amassed back-to-back victories against their crosstown rivals VitÃÂ³ria, in the Campeonato Baiano. Just when the football season is warming up...
...Violence casts its shadow over it. The torcidas organizadas, gangs of the bloodthirsty ultras which have long been bringing mayhem to the stadiums, are literally stealing the show early this year.
On Sunday alone, three regrettable episodes happened in three different Brazilian States, with three different outcomes Ã¢ÂÂ in common, just the infamous organizadas and the fact that the news made the headlines of both the police and sports sections.
Actually, with so many mad incidents happening in the grounds, most national newspapers donÃ¢ÂÂt even bother reporting regular ultras fights Ã¢ÂÂ for instance, to learn the full story about the combat involving GoiÃÂ¡s and Vila Nova partisans at the stands of Serra Dourada, youÃ¢ÂÂve got to look for the GoiÃÂ¢nia local media. Who cares if just five were arrested, three for drug traffic inside the stadium, and just one unlucky fan taken to the hospital?
Indeed, itÃ¢ÂÂs peanuts next to the two major incidents that occurred in Rio de Janeiro and Santa Catarina. In the first, 24-year-old Diogo Emanuel GonÃÂ§alves, who was returning from MaracanÃÂ£ in a bus rented by Botafogo supporters, was murdered after the occupants of a passing car opened fire against the fansÃ¢ÂÂ coach. Three suspects were arrested Tuesday night, one of them carrying a Smith & Wesson .44 Ã¢ÂÂ reportedly the murder weapon.
But it was in sunny FlorianÃÂ³polis, Santa Catarina, that the most mediatic event Ã¢ÂÂ for its pictorial appeal Ã¢ÂÂ took place. 62-year-old CriciÃÂºma fan Ivo Costa was watching his team beat AvaÃÂ on Heriberto Hulse stadium when a homemade bomb thrown by the rivalsÃ¢ÂÂ ultras landed just near him. When he grabbed the explosive to get rid of it, it blew up Ã¢ÂÂ and his right hand was severed.
The picture taken by ClicRBSÃ¢ÂÂ photographer FlÃÂ¡vio Neves of Ivo being assisted by the medical crew, which opens this post, hurts badly. Man, it was just an old-school fella, proudly donning his team shirt, radio on the left hand, looking for no more than a Sunday afternoon fun with his beloved team. Came Sunday night, his hand was gone Ã¢ÂÂ as well as his desire of returning to the ground, obviously. Ã¢ÂÂDonÃ¢ÂÂt plan to go back... IÃ¢ÂÂm afraidÃ¢ÂÂ, the retired night watchman says, shirtless in the hospital room.
This time, it didnÃ¢ÂÂt take long for the AvaÃÂ ultras fans to finger the responsibles for the tragedy. Perps with a rap sheet longer than a mile, cold blooded matadores like Javier BardemÃ¢ÂÂs Anton Chigurh, from the Oscar winning flick No Country for Old Men? Nope. A 22-year-old mechanic, who entered the stadium with the two bombs hidden in his underwear, and a 22-year-old Army soldier (an Army soldier, I repeat), who reportedly threw the fatidic device.
Now the Santa Catarina State Federation has banned away fans from the games Ã¢ÂÂ in GoiÃÂ¡s, the authorities want to ban all the ultras. Will this be enough? Hardly. ItÃ¢ÂÂs a subject to endless nights of debates, but the bottom line is that mild laws, poor police control and slow Justice give the ultras an unmatched feeling of impunity in Brazil. Unless extreme measures are taken, theyÃ¢ÂÂre free to keep turning the grounds into combat zones Ã¢ÂÂ and to rob the regular fan of the undisputed right of watching football.