Monday,24 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Monday,24 September, 2018
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Security fears

Two incidents involving fans are casting shadows over safety and security at the World Cup, writes Inas Mazhar

Al-Ahram Weekly

Chile’s victory against world champions Spain, as they denied them the chance to make it to the second round, was marred by Chilean fans’ invasion of the media centre an hour before the match kick-off.

According to a joint statement by FIFA and the Local Organising Committee (LOC), a group of individuals without tickets violently forced entry into the stadium ahead of the Spain-Chile match at the Maracana, breaking fences and overrunning security.

“They were contained by the security and did not make it to the seats. The situation was brought under control quickly and at least 85 intruders were detained according to the military police of Rio de Janeiro. The organisers of the FIFA World Cup™ condemn these acts of violence and we will communicate further information and measures to be taken in due course,” the statement published then read.

Reports explained that the ticketless fans were crowded in front of a checkpoint when they smashed through the glass doors of the media centre and then through the temporary walls separating it from the main concourse. At least one Chilean fan, a woman, was injured and taken outside in a wheelchair.

It was the first time in the history of a World Cup competition that fans had invaded a media centre. Not to defend the action, but those angry ticketless fans might not have intended to break into the media centre, but were using it as a gateway or shortcut to reach the stands.

FIFA and the LOC reacted quickly. The match was held as scheduled while police immediately interfered and led away some of the fans out of the stadium. Chile won the game 2-0. Almost 85 fans were detained and were set to be deported within the next 72 hours, according to the military police of Rio, which means that they have already left the country.

The invaders were among hundreds of Chile fans who broke through fences surrounding the stadium, thousands having arrived at the Maracana without tickets.

Keir Radnedge, Chairman of the AIPS Football Commission said that FIFA and its local organisers will come under critical scrutiny over the failure to provide effective match day security while its staff have spent significant time enforcing the most petty rules and regulations on irritated journalists trying to undertake their professional duties.

“Some journalists have been barred from carrying in water bottles which are not World Cup sponsor-labelled (not, clearly, a way to earn respect or sympathy or sympathetic coverage for that particular fizzy-drink corporation). In another demonstration of wilful obstruction a television reporter was forced to discard a coat-hanger on which he was carrying his shirt for on-air presentation”.

“Yet security measures were so inadequate that a mob could smash down a glass door and run riot through the media centre, overturning furnishings and looting cameras, laptops and cell phones before being cornered by hastily-summoned federal police”.

Radnedge wrote on the AIPS website wondering as he added, “In all of the Brazilian protests and demonstrations, this year and at the Confederations Cup last year, this was the first time that media facilities had been assailed”.

This was not the only incident that took place at the Maracana Stadium apart from the matches, which raised concerns and doubts about the security provisions at the World Cup. Three days before, 20 Argentinean fans broke into security at the Maracana ahead of their side’s game against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those fans were also apprehended, according to FIFA and LOC, yet fears surrounding the efficiency of the level of security at this stadium have risen, especially since this stadium is expected to host some important matches including the final.

Gianni Merlo, president of the International Sports Press Association AIPS, has also expressed his “serious concerns” at the incident . In a statement the AIPS president said  .”While we accept and believe in the goodwill of the staff of FIFA and the Local Organising Committee it is clearly a matter of regret that ‘real’ security and safety for our colleagues is absent.

“AIPS is aware of concerns raised previously by colleagues concerning thefts from lockers, inadequate catering exacerbated by the petty confiscation of minor items of food and drink and even of a coat hanger which, for the broadcast reporter concerned, counted as professional equipment.

“Every troublesome incident prompts the likelihood of ‘copycat’ repeat. This is no exception. We call on FIFA to ensure that the focus of security staff within the FIFA Zone is directed at real security and safety issues for the sake of all working journalists and members of AIPS”. The AIPS statement read If fans can breach security and reach the media centre, the journalists’ working place, then they could easily invade the stands and reach the seats. If this happened, the consequences would be grave. It would lead to stampedes and possibilities of riots and hooliganism and therefore jeopardise the safety of the spectators.

In these past two incidents, the trouble-making fans were stopped from making it to the seats. Still, there are no guarantees they would not in future matches to be held in the most famous stadiums of Brazil.

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