SAO PAULO (AP) — With disturbing images of fans hitting each other shown across Brazil, soccer's governing body downplayed the risk of violence inside stadiums during the World Cup.
FIFA condemned the mayhem in the southern city of Joinville, where fan fighting halted a decisive Brazilian league match for more than an hour Sunday. Four people were hospitalized, including one person who was airlifted from the field.
"This is very sad for Brazilian football," FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday. "FIFA and the local organizing committee condemn any form of violence and such incidents should not happen in any football stadium."
The violence came only two days after FIFA held the draw for the 2014 World Cup with an extravagant ceremony in a resort in northeastern Brazil.
Hundreds of fans from Atletico Paranaense and Vasco da Gama charged each other in Joinville, throwing kicks and punches while armed with sticks and metal bars. The fighting forced the referee to stop the match about 17 minutes into the first half.
Security in Joinville was handled by private guards instead of police, similar to what is planned for the World Cup. Only stewards are in charge of fan safety inside stadiums during FIFA events, with authorities usually in charge of security outside the venues.
Sunday's fighting stopped only after police arrived, firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
FIFA said it could not comment on what happened in Joinville because it was not involved in the match, but noted it is confident with its World Cup security plans.
"For the 2014 FIFA World Cup a very comprehensive security concept is in place in an integrated operation between private and public security authorities to ensure the safety for fans, players and any other stakeholder involved in the event," the governing body said "The concept has worked very well during the FIFA Confederations Cup and is built on models used at previous FIFA World Cups."
At the Confederations Cup in June, police and soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and shock grenades at rock-throwing demonstrators. Six died in connection with the violence of that tournament, a warmup for the World Cup.