Palmeiras goalkeeper injured in clash with fans
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass was injured when team fans frustrated by a defeat in the Copa Libertadores confronted players at an airport in Argentina on Thursday.
Prass had to be treated for cuts to his head and ear, but no one was seriously hurt in the altercation before the team's return to Brazil. Palmeiras said three fans were detained in Argentina but were later released.
The supporters, wearing jerseys from the team's biggest fan group, faced the players while they were waiting to board their flight back to Sao Paulo after a 1-0 loss to Tigre.
The small group of fans tried to attack the players and security guards had to intervene, according to Brazilian media with the team. Chile playmaker Jorge Valdivia had to hide near the airport's bathroom, surrounded by security guards.
Brazilian media reported that Valdivia had been criticized by fans during the team's warm-up at the stadium and allegedly retaliated with obscene gestures. Midfielder Wesley also was targeted by the supporters at the airport.
"They threw a cup at Valdivia and it hit me,'' Prass said through his Twitter account. "I got three stitches in the head and a cut in my ear.''
Prass had to stay in Argentina because of the injuries and didn't immediately return with the rest of the squad. A team doctor stayed with him.
The sports daily Lance showed a video in which captain Henrique and reserve goalkeeper Bruno tried to talk with some of the fans to calm them down.
The confrontation caused a brief disruption at Jorge Newbery Airport. After arriving in Sao Paulo, the team left the local airport through a special exit which kept players from having contact with fans and journalists.
Palmeiras president Paulo Nobre called those involved in the confrontation "irrational bandits.''
"What happened today is unacceptable and Palmeiras will not tolerate this type of attitude,'' he said at a news conference.
He said he would cut all the benefits being given to the team's organized fan groups, including free tickets to away matches. He also defended Valdivia, saying the player has the team's full support, and said local authorities need to act to help contain fan violence.
Jose Maria Marin, the president of the Brazilian football federation, said the incident "hurts the country's image.''
Sports Ministry Aldo Rebelo said these episodes "can't happen again'' and that football is damaged by these fans.
"The clubs can't be subjected to this kind of violence,'' he said.
Palmeiras is the fourth most-popular club in Brazil with about 15 million supporters. The Mancha Alviverde fan group, the team's biggest, has about 7,000 members.
Palmeiras lost after conceding a last-minute goal, dropping to second-to-last in Group 2 of the Copa Libertadores.
It was not the first time that Palmeiras, the Brazilian team with the most national titles, had problems with radical fan groups. Players received death threats before the team's relegation to the second division last year and the team's store was lit on fire. This year, reserve player Fabinho Capixaba was assaulted by fans on a street.
In 2008, coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo injured his arm in a confrontation with supporters at an airport in Brazil, and a year later former Brazil striker Vagner Love left the club after being threatened by a fan group, as did playmaker Diego Souza. Last year, midfielder Joao Vitor got into a fight with supporters who waited for him to leave the club headquarters to criticize him.