SAO PAULO (AP) — The image of Brazilian soccer in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup took a hit Wednesday when the final of the Copa Sudamericana was abandoned after visiting club Tigre accused security officials of pulling guns and beating its players.
"What happened at the final was a serious setback to Brazil's image as host of next years' Confederations' Cup and the World Cup," Juca Kfouri, one of Brazil's leading sports commentators said by telephone.
Sao Paulo was awarded the title when Tigre refused to take the field for the second half of Wednesday's second leg of the final. Sao Paulo was leading 2-0, with the first leg having ended scoreless.
Officials of the Argentine club said their players and staff were beaten by security officials in the dressing room area at halftime and guns were drawn. The trouble off the pitch followed scuffles between the teams at the end of the first half.
Nestor Gorosito, the coach of Tigre, declined to take his team back on the field for the second half. He said security officials pulled guns on his players while others clubbed players and team officials.
"Rocks were hurled at the bus carrying the Argentine players to the stadium. They were not allowed to practice at the stadium and the team's private guards were reported to have threatened the Argentine players with guns" Kfouri said. "These barbaric things took place all the time last century between the 1920s and 1970s. It is a sad return through the tunnel of time to the deplorable past of South American football."
"A past that caused European teams like Milan and Real Madrid to refuse to come to South America to dispute the Intercontinental Cup" the predecessor to the Club World Cup, he added.
The chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo, before a sellout crowd of 65,000 at Morumbi stadium, is sure to trouble FIFA — the governing body of world soccer — which already has been frustrated by slow preparations for the World Cup.
Most of FIFA's angst so far has been focused on getting stadiums and new infrastructure in place. Now security also looms as a concern for the World Cup, which will be played at 12 venues across the country.
"Unfortunately, I don't think what happened on Wednesday will prompt FIFA to take any specific action regarding violence and security, and by Monday this whole thing will be forgotten," Kfouri said.
Violence on and off the pitch still blights many matches in South America, with Brazil and Argentina particularly affected. For the World Cup, FIFA relies on local officials and police to enforce safety at the stadiums.
The Confederations Cup, a preparatory event for the World Cup featuring eight national teams, will be played next year at six venues in Brazil.
With the 2016 Summer Games slated for Rio de Janeiro, Olympic officials also are sure to review the incident.
The trouble at the Morumbi stemmed from confrontations between the teams following a first half in which the hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on goals from Lucas and Osvaldo.
It was unclear what happened in the dressing room area, but Argentine television showed what appeared to be blood-spattered walls. Argentine television also showed several Tigre staff members with bruises and bloody faces.
"Police entered and struck our players with clubs," Gorosito told Argentine television. "It was crazy. What happened was crazy."
A Brazilian police officer who identified himself was Major Gonzaga told reporters police were called to break up a fight between Argentine players and Sao Paulo security guards, but that that no one was armed and that police did not act violently.
Joao Paulo de Jesus Lopes, one of Sao Paulo's vice presidents told reporters that Tigre players tried to "break into the Brazilian team's locker room and injured some of Sao Paulo's security guards.
"We were fighting for 15 minutes with people trained by, and wearing the colors of Sao Paulo. There was no need to do something like this. They were winning the match," said Tigre keeper Albil.
Romer Osuna, a Bolivian official with CONMEBOL, South America's governing body of soccer, said Tigre players were afraid to return to the field.
"The Tigre people declined to play because they considered security was not good enough," Osuna told Fox Sports.
Referee Enrique Osses of Chile awarded the victory to Sao Paulo after waiting about 30 minutes for Tigre to retake the field.
Sao Paulo scored twice in five minutes in the first half — a left-footed drive from Lucas in the 23rd and a lobbing shot from the right wing by Osvaldo in the 28th.
Sao Paulo, one of Latin America's most famous clubs, is a three-time winner of the Copa Libertadores, South America's most prestigious club tournament. It has also won the Club World Cup once, and twice won the Intercontinental Cup, the predecessor to the Club World Cup.
This was the club's first Copa Sudamericana title.
Tigre was playing in its first international final and has never won the Argentine first-division title.
Associated Press writer Steve Wade contributed to this report.