By Palmeiras Fan
A few considerations for those who don’t understand the Brazilian football system. First, the season here starts late January and ends in mid December. Second, as Brazil is a very big and very poor country, our first national leagues started in the late 1950’s and were only consolidated in the 1970’s. Before then, we just played local leagues. The biggest ones were the State Leagues and the one from São Paulo State, or Campeonato Paulista, is one of the oldest leagues in the country, founded in 1902. Corinthians and Palmeiras are the most successful and traditional clubs in this league (also in the national league). State leagues go from January to May and national leagues from May to December. Copa Libertadores da América, Copa Sulamericana and Copa do Brasil are played all over the year.
Sunday April 19, Palmeiras met Corinthians in the semi-final of the São Paulo State league in the stadium where Brazil played against Croatia last World Cup. After a 2-2 draw, Palmeiras won on penalties. As a Palmeiras fan, I celebrated like hell, because the club has been in a 15 year long internal crisis that turned us, once the biggest club in Brazil, into an average one. But this victory on the pitch had been given a shameful side, because the night before, 8 Corinthians fans were shot dead inside Pavilhão 9‘s fanhouse.
It’s not only recently that Brazilian football has a history of violence. Hooligan violence, police violence, sponsor violence, ticket price violence, media violence and ‘black tie’ violence, among others. The point is that everything that goes wrong is put on the fans’ bill by the media, the federations, the sponsors and the police. The weakest part of the chain is always the one that breaks first.
I can talk about the CBF’s corruption and how they sold our national team – the one that has won five World Cups – to Nike, or how they sold our league to Globo Television, or even how they turned our ancient stadiums into shopping malls. How tickets are expensive now, how TV talks about football and still turn into gods players like Julio Cesar, Dani Alves, David Luiz and Oscar, but who managed to lose 7-1 at home to the brilliant team Germany had at the last World Cup. They deserved to win, that’s true, but not by that much. These are all reflexes of something bigger that is happening over here and it is something that you know very well in Britain: the ‘Thatcherization’ of football. This is the context. Now, let’s get back to the murders.
Eight Corinthians fans were found dead inside their club house the night before the match against their biggest rivals for the semi-finals of Campeonato Paulista. The first media impulse: “Blame the fans! The rivals. Well, they have been fighting each other on the streets for almost a hundred years. Blame them.”
Let’s be honest. Some fans from both sides have died in fights between the rivals, facts that no-one should be proud of. But yes, it already happened. One guy was shot and died on the way to the hospital. Another one was thrown from the top of a bridge. Lots were stabbed. But never in the history of hooliganism in Brazil you could ever see such a brutal thing: eight dead bodies inside a fanhouse. They were painting a flag inside their place. No hooligan invades another one’s fanhouse. That’s pretty much suicide.
Another signature, one that is evident from the picture, is that they were probably on their knees before they got shot. One bullet each in the back of the neck.
At the match, I talked to a few troublemakers I know in Palmeiras’ biggest hooligan group: Mancha Verde. All of them gave me the same answer: “It was not us.” They also took a flag to Corinthians stadium saying: “We are football supporters (Somos Torcida)” and an anti-gun badge (see picture below).
That was the Sunday afternoon, 19th April. On the Monday morning, the media tells us that one of the dead was in prison in Bolivia two years ago for a football-related offence during Libertadores 2013. Someone in Corinthians away crowd in Bolivia, against San Jose for the group phase, lit a firecracker (which was thrown) in the direction of the Bolivians. It was a naval firecracker, a very strong one. Unfortunately, it hit a 14 year old boy named Kevin, a fan of San Jose. No-one never found out who did that, but a few Corinthians fans were arrested after that match and spent a few months in prison in Bolivia. Based on the information that one of the lads who was murdered had spent some time in prison as a suspect, the press speculated further: “Ok, maybe not Palmeiras fans. Maybe other Corinthians trying to right the wrong from Bolivia,” reflected the media and the powers that be. Wrong again. That’s definitely not a hooligan signature.
Later the same day, the media starts releasing news that it was a crime or a fight between drug traffickers. Sounds like a better version. But still naïve for those who know the reality in Brazil, especially in São Paulo. The most populated and richest state of the country has also the greatest levels of police violence. Only in this state do the police kill more people per year than the entire US police forces combined. And let’s be honest, the US police is not well known as an institution that respects human rights. So, guess how it is in Brazil? Police over here are called Military Police. They’ve got a full bloc of their own politicians in Congress. Since the days of military dictatorship our public security system has not been reformed. The death squads who killed during those dictatorship times are still killing people at night, especially in poor neighborhoods. They stop the victim as if it was a police check, put the victim on their knees and shoot them in the back of the neck. There are hundreds of thousands of stories like this. It has been going on since the 1960s.
When you examine all of this, you start to suspect the involvement of cops. Of course, I cannot say if it was them or not. I am not an investigator. This is just my impression and associations to what happened to the Brazilian reality. Maybe it had to do with drug trafficking? Yes, maybe. But we should be aware that the ‘war on drugs’ is the main excuse to maintain this public security system which treats the people as an enemy.
* A serving police officer and a former policeman have been arrested on suspicion of the murders of the eight Corinthians fans.