Bangladeshi football fans watch the 2018 World Cup football final match between France and Croatia on a big screen in Dhaka on July 15, 2018. (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP via Getty Images)
By Chandrashekar Bhat
POLICE in a rural Bangladesh district have banned gatherings for Sunday’s (11) Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina following clashes between rival fans.
A long-standing rivalry between followers of the South American giants boiled over after Brazil’s semi-final win over Peru to set up the final against Lionel Messi’s Argentina, police said Thursday (8).
A dispute between two boys over which country played better football turned into a street battle with fans beating each other with sticks and throwing punches in Brahmanbaria, 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of Dhaka, local police chief Mohammad Amranul Islam said.
Islam said police were now on alert for the high-octane Copa America final in Rio de Janeiro, more than 15,000 kilometres away.
“We have told villagers they can’t watch the matches on big screens. We have gone to villages and told them they can’t hold any gathering during the final,” Islam said.
Cricket is Bangladesh’s main sport but the country of 168 million people becomes a hotbed of football fanaticism for the World Cup and Copa America.
Millions of Brazil and Argentina fans hoist the flags of their favourite country on their homes and stage street processions wearing team shirts. Trouble regularly erupts.
During the 2018 World Cup, a 12-year-old boy was electrocuted to death while putting a Brazil flag on a pole. A man and his son were critically injured when fans in rival processions clashed in the central town of Bandar.