Corinthians' fan base is one of the world soccer's loudest and most devoted. The team's "Torcida" ("faithful" in Portuguese) made global headlines after basically taking Japan over for the 2012 Club World Cup, where thousands of Brazilians watched the Sao Paulo great best Chelsea in the final towards its first world championship.
"The Torcida just will not stop singing throughout the game, no matter what the score is. The invasion of the fans in Japan is an example of passion for the team," Fernando Ahuvia of Goal.com Brazil said. Their examples of Tifo are some of the most elaborate displays in the continent. One of the items in their wide array is the use of flares and fireworks, usually shot from within the stands.
While not uncommon for South American soccer in general, the showy displays are nonetheless dangerous. During Corinthians' first Copa Libertadores match this year in Bolivia, a flare shot by a 17-year-old Timao fan struck and killed a teenaged Bolivian fan, an act which prompted days of mourning and eventually prompted punishment from the CBF (the South American soccer federation): The Torcida would be silenced for the remainder of the Cup, and no Corinthians fans would be allowed into any games for the rest of the season.
In Bolivia, Corinthians walked away with a draw. Shortly after, with the ban in effect, the Brazilians shut out Colombian champ Millonarios before an official attendance of four spectators. Strolling into Tijuana after the traveling the longest distance in Copa Libertadores history to that point, Corinthians struggled on the artificial pitch of the Estadio Caliente and succumbed to the Liga MX king by a score of 1-0.
After three matches, Corinthians was saddled with four points and the very real chance of not qualifying out of its group just months after winning the 2012 edition of the Copa. Xolos, with three wins in three matches, looked to be a much bigger threat than expected. So, Corinthians, with one of the highest payrolls in all of North and South America, and a group of players whose total value is north of 90 million dollars... pressured the system.
Officially, the CBF ban was supposed to last "until the investigation was fully completed and a final determination was taken". And yet, what possible reason could they have found to justify the death of a 14-year-old boy? If anything, Corinthians' punishment wasn't severe enough. Was the idea that a top organism in soccer could dole out legitimate justice and send a message too much to ask?
Like most of the higher powers in world soccer, the CBF has been riddled with accusations of corruption in the past. In 2009, Mexico threatened to leave the Copa Libertadores after the CBF banned Chivas and San Luis from competing after the swine flu outbreak. Months later, South American bigwigs proudly announced that Mexico would compete in 2010. Coincidentally, the Mexican Federation would increase its revenue from the updated deal, with teams getting a bigger piece of the pie from sponsorship deals and TV contracts.
A packed Paceambu stadium watched Corinthians thrash Tijuana 3-0 in a match that saw Timao gather revenge on the upstart Mexican team that dared to beat them a week before. The Torcida roared for the better part of three hours, before, during and after the match.
Under normal circumstances, it would be a damn shame for the mighty Paceambu to look deserted, and the Torcida to be silenced. These aren't normal circumstances. There's a family in Bolivia that can fully attest to that.
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