SAO PAULO (AP) — With the World Cup just months away, Brazilian football is under the spotlight for the wrong reasons again after players from one of the country's most popular clubs were attacked by fans upset with the team's struggles.
This weekend's attack happened at a training center which will be used during the World Cup, and comes amid uncertainty over the start of this year's Brazilian league because of ongoing lawsuits and bribery allegations.
Brazil's image has already been tarnished by its problematic World Cup preparations - with host city Curitiba still in danger of being dropped - and last year a flood of fan violence plagued Brazilian stadiums and raised safety concerns ahead of football's showcase event.
More violence was reported this weekend, and a video being shown by local media shows four police officers using batons to strike a lone supporter allegedly involved in fan fighting during a match in the central state of Goias.
Nearly 100 fans cut through a wire of mesh fence on Saturday to invade Corinthians' training grounds, which is where Iran's national team will be based during the World Cup in June. They attacked team employees and grabbed Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero by his neck, forcing other players to flee into a locker room and barricade themselves until police arrived.
FIFA and the local World Cup organizing committee said Monday they could not directly comment about the attack because they are not involved in the management of the training center.
"This represents the failure of the Brazilian state," Corinthians President Mario Gobbi said Monday. "It was something that shocked everyone, and it still hurts. Teams don't lose because they want to lose. It's something that happens in football. Authorities are the ones responsible for handling this type of violence, not the clubs."
Corinthians, which won the 2012 Club World Cup thanks to a goal by Guerrero in the final against Chelsea, threatened not to play on Sunday because of the attack, but in the end players were convinced to get on the field in respect to other fans and sponsorship deals. The team lost 2-1 to Ponte Preta, marking the third defeat in a row for the country's second-most popular club, behind Flamengo.
"We can't accept this type of violence. This is not the football that we want to see here in Brazil," Corinthians coach Mano Menezes said. "When something like this happens, you just feel like going home."