Chaos and violence broke out Tuesday night in Rio de Janeiro at one of the most storied rivalries in international soccer - a World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina. What was expected to be a thrilling match between two bitter foes competing for a World Cup bid descended into mayhem even before kickoff.
Brazil vs Argentina GAME war
As the national anthems played, Brazilian and Argentine fans began fighting violently in the stands at the iconic Maracanã Stadium. Video shows terrified families scrambling to safety as police stormed into the stands, wielding batons and using excessive force. At one point, Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martínez could even be seen grabbing an officer's baton to protect nearby fans.
Argentine star Lionel Messi, one of the world's most popular athletes, accused Brazilian police of brutality and endangering players' families in attendance. Captains tried calming fans before Argentina walked off the pitch in protest over safety concerns. After a 30-minute delay, the match resumed but the damage was done - what should have been a celebration of the beautiful game was irrevocably marred by violence.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino issued a statement Wednesday condemning the horrific scenes that unfolded with families present. Further questions will arise over Brazil's capacity to safely host major sporting events as qualifiers continue for the 2026 World Cup, which the US is co-hosting.
In the match itself, Argentina ultimately prevailed 1-0 over their arch nemesis. But the lasting memory will unfortunately be of police batons and terrified spectators fleeing violence, not goals or saves on the field. The ugly incident shows soccer's continuous struggle balancing its public image with lingering issues like fan clashes and riots.