Rio bosses on Brazil-Argentina basketball clash alert
Organisers are on guard for Brazil’s huge basketball showdown with old foes Argentina on Saturday amidst fears of unruly fans sparking more bad news for the Rio Olympics.
Rowdy crowds, alongside empty stands, have marked the Games’ opening days with a punch-up between Argentine and Brazilian fans at the tennis and slurs hurled at the hosts’ opponents at the basketball arena.
“We take every game very seriously – in every game, in every match and every session the necessary security precautions are taken, not only in this case,” said Rio 2016 spokesman Mario Andrada.
Saturday’s clash is vital for both nation’s prospects of reaching the quarter-finals. There is the added spice of decades of rivalry between Brazil and Argentina on the football field.
One Argentine will be on Brazil’s side as Ruben Magnano, who led Argentina to Olympic gold in 2004, now coaches Brazil.
“It’s a game, it’s a spectacle, it’s sport, there’s no need to fight,” said Magnano.
“It should be a fiesta of our basketball. Zero violence, zero fighting.”
Magnano, though, dismissed doubts over his loyalties.
“I am still Argentine, I still have an Argentinian passport,” he said. “But I need to defend, 100%, our Brazilian team.”
– Tennis blows -There has been no brotherly love lost at the 10,000 tennis arena where Argentina and Brazilian fans came to blows during Argentine favourite Juan Martin del Potro’s second round win over Joao Sousa.
“I hope that will not happen again because people need to enjoy the matches and we need to have peace between Argentina and Brazil,” said Del Potro, adding: “This is not football.”
Taunting Argentines has become a theme of the Games with Brazil fans poking fun at the legendary Diego Maradona as Argentina crashed out in the men’s football.
“Pele scored more than 1,000 goals… Maradona just snorted cocaine,” rang around the Olympic stadium as Argentina’s players struggled on the pitch against Algeria.
Atmospheres more akin to a full house at the iconic Maracana stadium have also been reported at table tennis and the swimming.
Gutteral roars of “Thiago, Thiago” bellowed around the aquatics stadium as local favourite Thiago Pereira took on Michael Phelps in the 200m individual medley on Thursday.
Argentines have not been the only ones coping abuse from over-enthusiastic home support.
NBA star Pau Gasol was targeted with obscene chants when 2012 silver medallists Spain took on Brazil.
The distraction worked as two-time NBA champion Gasol missed two crucial late free-throws to spark a last gasp 66-65 Brazil win amongst wild scenes of celebration.
“I understand the crowd. We are hosting the Olympics,” Brazil’s Marquinhos said.
“But I would like to apologise in the name of the Brazilian people. I know that it was not disrespectful. Here in Brazil we tend to go after the best player of the other team.”
Outpsoken goalkeeper of the USA women’s world champion football team Hope Solo has also been met with chants of “Zika”.
Last month Solo posted a picture of herself with a mosquito net over her head and a huge bottle of insect repellent in hand to ward off the virus.
Some, though, have cherished the South American passion on show.
“I don’t know how to thank them, honestly. This kind of atmosphere, I have experienced only a few times in my life,” said world number one Novak Djokovic, who slumped to a shock first round defeat to Del Potro.
“I felt like I was in my own country. I felt Brazilian.”
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