A bizarre scene unfolded in Kerala, India, as mobs of fanatics of the Argentine and Brazilian soccer teams brawled with sticks and iron bars in a cemetery near a FIFA World Cup event, reports detailed on Monday.
Kerala is home to a lively soccer tradition and “road shows” to prepare for major events, such as the World Cup, are not uncommon. India did not qualify to play in the tournament, but this apparently has not deterred fervor for the sport in Kerala, where throngs of fans of various other nations congregated this weekend. The brawl reportedly occurred at a World Cup event in Sakthikulangara which, according to the Brazilian news network G1, has a long tradition of hosting large fanbases for both Brazil and Argentina. Argentina was the longtime favorite in Sakthikulangara before Brazilian national team fandom took off there in the 1990s.
Brazil is the winningest soccer team in World Cup history with five trophies. Argentina has won the trophy twice – the last time in 1986 – but has remained an outsized favorite in most tournaments due to often hosting one of the biggest stars in the sport. Currently, its captain is Lionel Messi, considered one of the world’s greatest active players.
The incident in question reportedly occurred at a fan event near a cemetery. According to the Hindustan Times, an “unidentified video clip” triggered a dispute between fans of Brazil and Argentina that erupted into a full-scale mob assault between those wearing the Brazilian yellow jerseys and the Argentine blue-and-white. Some sporadic individuals wearing the jerseys of Portugal and England are also among the crowd, though they appear to mostly be observers. The weapons of choice in the melee appear to be sticks, iron bars, and flagpoles, according to multiple reports on the incident.
Indianos que torcem para o Brasil e Argentina CAINDO NO SOCO
— Central do RB Bragantino (@CentralDoBraga) November 21, 2022
#Kerala: Videos’ve surfaced a day after football fans, mostly 🇷🇷 supporters, fought during a #QatarWorldCup2022 rally in Kollam district’s #Sakthikulangara. The police have reportedly registered a case after the video revealed the intensity of the incident. #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/eoaTj8vo1Q
— Bechu.S (@bechu_s) November 21, 2022
The Times of India reported that the fighting ultimately ended when “elders” intervened to calm the young men. No reports have documented any major injuries. Police reportedly did not intend to file any charges or open an investigation into the incident until the video began going viral on social media and have since officially opened a case under laws against disturbing the peace. At press time, police have not charged any individual with a crime related to the melee.
The Qatar 2022 World Cup has faced years of criticism for being hosted in a nation with an extensive record of violating the human rights of its citizens, particularly persecuting non-Muslims, gay people, and women. Human rights groups and journalists have also documented egregious abuse of migrant workers that has led to the deaths of at least 6,500 people working on the construction of World Cup facilities.
The World Cup, which began on Sunday, has already hosted multiple incidents of violence against journalists. Last week, unidentified Qatari security agents in a golf cart assaulted Danish television reporter Rasmus Tantholdt in the middle of a live broadcast, attempting to take his camera and smash it. Qatar’s government apologized for the incident but never explained why Tantholdt was attacked.
In a separate incident on Sunday, Argentine journalist Dominique Metzger was pickpocketed while reporting live from a World Cup party. She detailed in a later report that attempting to report her wallet and hotel key, among other personal belongings, missing to Qatari police was an arduous ordeal as she is a woman.
“Male police won’t register you,” she noted. “As soon as I got to the police station, they took me to another place where there were only women. I asked why I was there, and they told me as I’m a woman, it has to be a policewoman who has to help me.”
Metzger also expressed bafflement that the police asked her what prison sentence she wanted for her robber, a decision she expected the justice system to take on her behalf.
Brazil and Argentina both enter this year’s World Cup as perennial favorites. Brazil has yet to play at press time, but Argentina is off to a dramatically poor start, starring in what may be the largest upset in the history of the tournament after losing 2-1 to Saudi Arabia – at best considered a middling team with no international stars on it – on Tuesday. The Argentina national team had been on a 36-game winning streak before Tuesday.