Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil football season ends in violence as fans brawl

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Media captionA violent brawl broke out between rival fans

The Brazilian football league season ended on Sunday with a violent brawl that seriously injured three people.

A match in southern Brazil was stopped for an hour after a fight broke out between supporters of Vasco da Gama and Atletico Paranaense.

TV images showed seemingly unconscious men being kicked in the head despite appeals from football players.

A helicopter landed on the pitch to transport an injured man to hospital.

The shockingly violent scenes, broadcast live to millions of homes on Sunday afternoon, are bound to raise questions about Brazil's ability to keep fans safe during next year's World Cup, correspondents say.

The brawl in the Arena Joinville, in the southern state of Santa Catarina, started during the first half of the match.

One of Atletico Paranaense's players was filmed crying after witnessing fans being viciously beaten.

"I've been playing for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this in person. We will have a World Cup in our country and we know these images will be shown everywhere," defender Luiz Alberto told reporters.

Image caption A man was transported to hospital by a helicopter which landed on the pitch

Vasco da Gama needed to win the game to stay in the elite division of Brazilian football.

'Private event'

Despite tensions running high, there was no police inside the stadium.

"It is a private event and the security has to be ensured by a private company hired by Atletico Paranaense. We were responsible for policing the external areas," a spokesman for the state's military police, Adilson Moreira, told EFE news agency.

Riot police only stepped in and fired rubber bullets after at least two fans from Atletico Paranaense were lying on the stands.

The match ended in a resounding 5-1 win for Paranaense.

Vasco da Gama and fellow Rio de Janeiro team Fluminense – last year's champions – will now be relegated to the second division.

Cruzeiro, from the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais, had already secured the Brazilian championship four weeks before the end of the season.

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