Two fans were shot to death in the city of Fortaleza while on their way to a match that served as a “test event” at a World Cup stadium. The fans were killed about three miles from the Arena Castelao (pictured), raising security questions just two months before the north-eastern city hosts matches in the Confederations Cup and one year before it hosts the World Cup.
An official in charge of Fortaleza’s World Cup preparations said that the deaths were not connected to the test event at the Arena Castelao. “We lament what happened,” said Tiago Paes, a local World Cup organizing committee member who was present at the test event in Fortaleza. “But there is work being done by the police and the army in many areas of security, so we are not concerned with that for the Confederations Cup.”
The test event was a match between local rivals Ceara and Fortaleza, which was being used by local organisers to evaluate the venue. The victims, who were wearing Ceara jerseys, were shot in the head by opposing supporters at a local plaza. The attack appeared to be unprovoked as witnesses told police that the victims had just left a van and were walking from the plaza to the stadium when two Fortaleza fans opened fire on them from a motorcycle.
Authorities have managed to detain one suspect who was found near the plaza on a motorcycle carrying a gun. In addition to the murders, police detained more than 180 people for vandalism and disorderly conduct before the match at the Arena Castelao, which was completed in December and already has hosted nearly 20 test events. Local organizers are planning on holding a further 10 events that will take place before the venue hosts its three Confederations Cup matches this June: Brazil v. Mexico, Nigeria v. Spain and the semi-final match of the World Cup warm-up tournament.
Despite the deaths and arrests, World Cup organizers said they were satisfied with Sunday’s test noting that the stadium’s sound and television system, cleaning services and crowd management were all up to par.
The last notable incident of football-related violence in Brazil occurred five months ago when violent scenes marred the Copa Sudamericana final at the Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo. There, Sao Paulo were crowned champions of South America after Argentinian side Tigre refused to take to the field for the second half of the second leg claiming they were threatened at gunpoint by security officials. In the wake of that incident FIFA insisted there should be no concerns about security at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The world governing body has yet to comment on the events in Fortaleza.