Messi: We were worried about the fans in the stands, there could have been tragedies

Riots in the stands started shortly after the anthems were sung, and there was a fight between Brazilian police and Argentine fans

by Sededin Dedovic
Messi: We were worried about the fans in the stands, there could have been tragedies
© Wagner Meier / Getty Images

Argentine soccer captain Lionel Messi made a bold decision to halt tonight's World Cup qualifier against Brazil, pulling his teammates off the field in response to police violence against visiting fans. The match, which eventually resulted in a 1-0 victory for Argentina, was overshadowed by the disturbing scenes in the stands of the iconic Maracanã stadium.

Trouble erupted shortly after the anthems were sung, as Brazilian police clashed with Argentine supporters. The Argentinian players, witnessing the unfolding chaos, made a collective decision to leave the pitch and return to the dressing rooms.

This courageous act temporarily halted the match, delaying the start for nearly half an hour.

The families of soccer players were in the stands

Messi, speaking after the match, expressed deep concern for the safety of the fans and the overall atmosphere of the game.

"We saw that the police were beating the fans with batons in the stands," he recounted. "The families of our soccer players were also in the stands. We retreated to the dressing room because we wanted to calm down the situation.

We couldn't do much. We watched the police beat people. It could have been a tragedy. Our players were wondering how their families were." The events in the stands undoubtedly cast a shadow over the match, shifting the focus away from the sporting contest.

Messi admitted that the players' thoughts were more preoccupied with the welfare of the fans than the game itself. "We were more focused on the fans in the stands than on the game," he confessed. "The game fell into the background and was less important at that moment." Despite the distractions, Argentina managed to secure a hard-fought victory, with Nicolas Otamendi scoring the decisive goal in the 63rd minute.

The current world champions celebrated their triumph on the field 10 minutes after the final whistle, but the lingering effects of the fan violence could not be ignored. The first six teams from the South American qualifiers will qualify for the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Mexico and Canada, and the seventh-placed team will play in the intercontinental play-off. Argentina is first in the table with 15 points, while Uruguay is second with 13.