Messi: Maracana crowd trouble 'could have ended in tragedy'
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Lionel Messi condemned the actions of police at the Maracana Stadium on Tuesday night, saying that the violent tactics used by Brazilian authorities against Argentina supporters could've ended in tragedy.
"It was bad because we saw how they were beating people," Messi said, according to BBC Sport.
Authorities clashed with Argentina fans during Tuesday's World Cup qualifier between the reigning World Cup champion and Brazil.
The violent scenes took place in a section of the famous stadium that Messi says contained friends and families of Argentina players. The 36-year-old and his teammates went over in a futile attempt to quell the situation.
"The police, as happened in the Libertadores final, were once again repressing the people with night sticks.
"We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy.
"You think about the families, the people who are there, who don't know what's going on and we were more concerned about that than playing a match that, at that point, was of secondary importance."
Crowd trouble occurred during the national anthems when rival fans clashed behind one of the goals. Police intervened and charged at Argentina supporters, with some officers striking fans with batons.
At one point, outraged Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez tried to grab a police officer's baton in an apparent attempt to stop attacks on fans.
The violence comes just weeks after similarily disturbing scenes at the Maracana Stadium. Supporters of Argentina football club Boca Juniors were injured during clashes with police in the stands during the Copa Libertadores final on Nov. 4.
Argentina won Tuesday's match 1-0 to maintain its place atop the CONMEBOL qualifying table, while struggling Brazil sits in sixth with just seven points after six games.
For Messi, the Inter Miami star ended his last game of 2023 injured. Messi said he felt discomfort in his groin, adding that the 27-minute delay during the crowd trouble likely contributed to his injury.
"It was my last game of the year, so I have time to get well to start 2024 giving everything," he said, according to ESPN's Adriana Garcia.