Brazilian giant Sao Paulo is your 2012 Copa Sudamericana champion. Not because they beat Argentinian club Tigre fair and square over 90 minutes in last night’s final, but by default. By forfeit. By means of their opponent giving up, essentially, when Tigre failed to emerge from the locker room after halftime. Tigre, for their part, claim to have had good reason to protest the continuation of the game. Mostly that they had guns drawn on them by security.
A brawl leading into the break set the stage for some bizarre happenings at halftime. The first half was already fraught with tension thanks to three yellow cards and a red for Sao Paulo defender Paulo Miranda. As the two teams headed off the field after 45 minutes, with Sao Paulo leading 2-0 in both the game and on aggregate, Tigre players surrounded Sao Paulo star Lucas Moura. The Brazilian police got involved.
That’s where things get scary, if you believe Tigre’s claims of intimidation from head coach Nestor Gorosito.
“During the break, a big guy came in with a gun. They pulled two revolvers,” Gorosito told Fox Sports. “We’re not going to play anymore. Police entered and struck our players with sticks. It was crazy, what happened was crazy.
“Some policeman started to hit some of my players. We tried to defend ourselves. We trained two hours away from our hotel, and it took us more than an hour to get to the stadium. We were unable to warm up on the pitch.”
CONMEBOL officials heard about the locker room disturbance, but were unswayed by hearsay.
“The Tigre people declined to play because they considered security was not good enough,” Osuna told Fox Sports. The referee abandoned the game because it was not right to play on. This decision is final. It is a shame that a continental final finished in this fashion.”
Referee Enrique Osses declared Sao Paulo champions, despite acknowledging he heard reports of a disturbance in the dressing rooms.
“We did not see anything, but we have heard some things about what happened,” Osses said. “We saw there were some injuries to the Tigre players but I don’t know what caused them.”
One has to wonder if the same decision would be reached if this was the Copa Libertadores and not South America’s secondary club tournament. Though the referee rightfully abandoned the game, it was not his decision to award the victory to Sao Paulo; that choice was made by CONMEBOL.
The odd nature of their win didn’t stop the Sao Paulo players from celebrating, though.
Prepare yourself for a spate of articles using last night’s debacle in Sao Paulo as reason to question the worthiness/readiness of Brazil as we steam ever closer to World Cup 2014.