Brazil minister slams football violence

Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo on Tuesday said the country should take a tougher line with football hooligans after last week's violent clashes at a top flight game between Atletico Paraenense and Vasco da Gama.

Both sides were fined and will have to play matches behind closed doors next season after shocking scenes which damaged Brazil's image six months before it hosts the World Cup.

That image has been further damaged by four costruction worker deaths this year, the latest in Manaus last Saturday, at World Cup venues racing to be ready for the event.

"Whoever commits the kind of violence we saw (between Atletico and Vasco da Gama) should be detained forthwith. It constitutes attempted homicide," said Rebelo, who was attending an exhibition "Brazil, one country, one world," along with the legendary Pele.

Rebelo also said he opposed a decision by the Brazilian football Confederation's sporting tribunal (STJD) to punish Sao Paulo club Portuguesa for fielding a banned player, Heverton, in the final games of the season last week.

The STJD Monday ruled Portuguesa should be docked four points for the offence with Heverton having been banned for a red card preceding the match.

As a result of the ruling, defending champions Fluminense were reprieved having finished in the final relegation place.

The drop for the reigning national champions would have been a first in Brazil.

Portuguesa have appealed but Rebelo said:

"What is normal is to decide championships on the field of play. Unfortunately, for motives which I shan't go into here, there was a mistake (by Portuguesa) and the ruling resulted in punishment for Portuguesa."

But Rebelo noted the latter had appealed and therefore "the decision is not definitive."

One respected Brazilian commentator described the ruling as "a life sentence for stealing a loaf of bread."

Portuguesa chairman Manoel da Conceicao, was outraged at the tribunal's decision.

"Had it been Fluminense in Portuguesa's shoes, this wouldn't have happened," he said.