Relief for Corinthians as home fan ban reduced

By Andrew Downie Reuters

SAO PAULO — Corinthians supporters will be allowed back into the stands to watch their team play home Copa Libertadores matches after officials reduced a 60-day ban imposed after a Bolivian boy was killed by a firework. Conmebol, the South American Football Confederation, said the ban on fans for last week’s game against Colombian side Millonarios was sufficient as long as there was no further trouble. It imposed a US$200,000 fine on the Sao Paulo-based club and banned its supporters from attending away games in Conmebol-sanctioned tournaments for 18 months.

The Brazilian club said they would await the formal notification of the decision before appealing the travel ban, which officials had told Brazilian media they considered “excessive.”

The decision on home games will come as a huge relief to the Libertadores Cup and club world champions, who faced losses estimated at US$650,000 per match.

The incident that sparked the ban came early in the away game against Bolivian side San Jose on Feb. 20 when a Corinthians fan let off a firework that flew into the home section and hit 14-year-old supporter Kevin Beltran, killing him instantly. A dozen Brazilians were arrested in connection with the incident and are now awaiting trial in a Bolivian jail accused of murder.

The 12 have protested their innocence and a 17-year-old later came forward in Brazil to claim responsibility for setting off the firework. In its ruling, Conmebol’s disciplinary committee also fined San Jose US$10,000 and warned both clubs that any repeat incident over the next five years would be dealt with harshly.

Corinthians won the Libertadores Cup for the first time last July before beating Chelsea in December to win the world club title. Their next Libertadores Cup game is at home to Mexican side Tijuana on March 13.