The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer

The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer
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Cardiff Bay Warriors won the Somali British Champions League two years ago. (Supplied)
The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer
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Cardiff Bay Warriors won the Somali British Champions League two years ago. (Supplied)
The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer
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Cardiff Bay Warriors won the Somali British Champions League two years ago. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 October 2023
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The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer

The football club giving a Muslim community in Cardiff reasons to cheer
  • Cardiff Bay Warriors were established by Somali sailors and its most recent incarnation is making a name in the Welsh capital

Community. A word that means different things for different people.

And, in the capital of Wales, there is a football club working to change the lives of one predominately Muslim community.

To the south of Cardiff’s center, before the city hits the sea, lies Butetown. Geographically it’s one community, in reality, it’s two: Cardiff Bay and Butetown.

Cardiff Bay has been gentrified, made up of new apartments and manicured gardens, while Butetown has been beaten down, squeezed and neglected. A rail line from the city center physically dissects these two communities.

Before its refurbishment, Cardiff Bay was known as the Docks or Tiger Bay.

A legacy of the docks is the Somali population in the city. Britain’s colonial presence in Somaliland meant Merchant Navy Seamen could work and live in the UK, and there was employment available in the docks, and later in the steel industry.

Many stayed, some had families in Wales, while others brought their families over when civil war broke out in Somalia.

The community is tight-knit, and out of it grew a football team, Cardiff Bay Warriors.

The melting pot of nationalities means Cardiff is home to an eclectic range of eateries, and some very popular Arabic restaurants.

In Hardramowt restaurant, Ahmed Noor, Warriors manager and the glue that holds the team together alongside secretary Ali Abdi, sits down to explain the ethos of the club.

We are also joined by team captain Mohamed Abdulla. He perfectly illustrates the heart of the club by modestly explaining that while he gets offers to play for teams in leagues above the Warriors, he would prefer to play for his community.

Noor stresses the importance of this loyalty.

“Cardiff Bay Warriors emerged from the community,” he said.

“The players live and breathe the community,” the manager added, “from attending primary school, faith classes and sports clubs in the community. The fans are mainly neighbors from the local community and family members.”

The club was first established in 2005, but disbanded after a few years.

Cardiff Bay Warriors returned in 2019, and have played in the Somali British Champions League for the past three years. Two semifinal appearances sit either side of a triumph two years ago.

That win didn’t come easy.

The Warriors won their quarter-final on penalties after a fightback from a 5-3 first-leg deficit, and the final was even more stressful for Noor.

Leicester Atletico were leading 2-1 until a last-minute goal levelled the match to force extra time. The Warriors scored in extra time to take the Champions League.

Last year’s competition witnessed more last-minute heroics when a goal from the captain levelled the match to force extra time. However, this time it was the opponents who found a winner.

The Somali British Champions League has grown in stature in recent times, and last year it had the backing of some famous faces.

“Funnily, Jack Grealish who plays for Manchester City is good friends with some players from the Hilltop team in London. So despite a Manchester team being in the final he gave a shout-out to the London side; I don’t know if he knew who they were playing,” Abdi said.

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold also recorded a good-luck video for Hilltop.

“To have those two top-level players take time out of their day to the competition was really nice. We just need (Gareth) Bale or (Aaron) Ramsey this year for us,” he said.

The league allows for three non-Somali players to be playing at any one time. The Warriors have players from Pakistan, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea and Morocco. It is their Islamic faith that brings them together.

“The mosque plays a huge part in the lives of the team as many of the players are practicing Muslims,” Abdi said.

“There are two mosques in Butetown, and one particularly, the Noor El Islam, is one of the oldest mosques in the UK and the oldest masjid in Wales with a rich history and a strong sense of community.”

This year, the Warriors are hopeful for more success in the tournament, but for the first time they will have to balance it with their debut in the Welsh leagues — namely, the Highadmit Projects South Wales Alliance Football League.

In Wales, a separate league pyramid system exists from the English one. While Welsh clubs Cardiff City, Swansea City, Newport County, Wrexham and Merthyr Tydfil play in the English divisions, all other teams in Wales play in the Cymru leagues (Cymru is the Welsh name for Wales).

The Warriors have a long way to go to reach the Cymru Premier, but that is their goal. They’ve started at the bottom but they are determined to make their way to the top. The top teams in the Cymru Premier League can play in the UEFA Champions League proper.

That will take time and money. The Warriors are fortunate to have access to a pitch that meets the standards of a club in the Cymru Premier League, a gantry for TV crews and seating for fans.

“The aspiration of the Warriors is to reach the pinnacle of the Welsh League and have a developed youth system with qualified coaches and a women and girls’ set-up too,” Noor said.

“We know all this takes time and investment; it won’t happen overnight so we take each year as it comes and hope to do better than the last year,” he said. “As a club we are open to new ideas and volunteers who can contribute to our vision, and whether from the community or not we welcome anyone that is willing to work with us to get to where we deserve to be.

“It’s no secret we have talented players in abundance in our Butetown and South Cardiff communities, and as much as we would like players to stay with us and help us on our journey, we won’t stand in the way of any player that attracts interest from teams in leagues above us.”

With proper funding, there is a belief that the Warriors could help to unearth a local Muslim player from the community who could go on to play for a top club, and ultimately the Welsh national team.

“Watching Muslim players in the Premier League, such as (Mohamed) Salah, has definitely inspired our younger generation into believing they too can follow in their footsteps, especially as the players hold on to their faith and actively practice it, whether it’s during Ramadan and they have a break during the game to break their fast or during celebrations where many Muslim players celebrate by prostrating and thanking god for their success,” Abdi said.

It is the Warriors’ abiding love for the community that is behind the club’s desire to help Cardiff City to find a real local player.

The Warriors have forged a strong bond with their local club. When they won the Champions League, they approached Cardiff City Foundation.

“When we brought the trophy back to Cardiff I put in a call to Cardiff City Foundation and said, ‘Look you’ve following us on social (media) do you want to meet the boys that have brought home the Champions League?’” Abdi said.

“The boys were paraded on the pitch at half-time, they were in the match-day magazine, and on pitch-side they were able to walk around with the crowd clapping and cheering; some young fans wanted photos with the boys.”

It can be said that Cardiff has not tapped into certain communities, so this is where Abdi and the club’s foundation have taken matters into their own hands.

“Through our relationship with the Cardiff City Foundation, we hosted a talent ID day in the community,” he said.

“The academy said that if we identify players in the under-10s they’ll bring in the coaches, put them through a series of drills and if there are any pathways available we’ll signpost them in the right direction.

“To everyone’s delight, that afternoon five were told to return to a future development camp, and one out of them has now signed for the academy.”

In another example of the club’s heart, Mohamed Abdulla and others take turns in mentoring the young player and supporting him with his development in their own time.

“He’s now played games in Liverpool, Manchester and Chelsea, and the boys go and watch him and support him,” Abdi said.

Normally, if a football team is on a filmset, it is at the end of a successful journey, when their story is ready to be told to the world.

But when Cardiff Bay Warriors ventured into Wolf Studios Wales recently it was to celebrate a new start, with a new partnership.

The studios, which are based in Cardiff Bay, have been used to film TV shows such as “A Discovery of Witches” and “His Dark Materials,” and most recently, “Doctor Who.”

The Warriors have forged a partnership with Screen Alliance Wales, who had wanted to reach out to the local community and found the Somali team to be the perfect vehicle to do that.

On the night, Abdulla said that talent in Butetown often goes unnoticed and hopes this partnership will make a difference.

“I am hoping that the community can take advantage of the opportunities presented by the TV industry and that our link with Screen Alliance Wales is able to be the spark that makes this happen,” he said.

And there’s that word again; community. With the Warriors, it’s always there, at the heart of everything the club stands for.


Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row

Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row
Updated 20 July 2024
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Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row

Argentina apologizes to France in football-chant row

BUENOS AIRES: Buenos Aires apologized to France after Argentina’s vice president called the European country “colonialist” and its people “hypocrites” in an argument over alleged racist chants by Argentine footballers.
President Javier Milei’s office said Friday it had sent a senior official to the French embassy to explain that Victoria Villarruel’s angry statement on social media was made in her personal capacity.
FIFA has announced an investigation into the chants sung by Argentina players, including Chelsea and Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez, 23, after they won the Copa America.
The chants were heard on a live video posted on social media by Fernandez from the team bus in the wake of the Copa victory over Colombia in Miami on Sunday.
The song targets France’s star striker Kylian Mbappe among others and includes racist and homophobic insults.
Fernandez has apologized, but Chelsea have launched an internal disciplinary procedure against him. The French Football Federation (FFF) has complained to FIFA.
On Wednesday, Villarruel expressed support for Fernandez on X, saying: “No colonialist country is going to intimidate us because of a stadium chant nor for speaking truths that they do not want to admit. Enough with feigned outrage, hypocrites.”
The diplomatic incident came just days before Milei is due to travel to Paris to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
“Diplomatic relations with France are intact,” presidential spokesman Manuel Adorni said Friday.
Argentina’s under secretary for sports, Julio Garro, was dismissed from his post this week after saying captain Lionel Messi and the Argentine Football Association should apologize for the chants.


Costa Rica keeps USA to 0-0 draw in Olympic sendoff game

Costa Rica keeps USA to 0-0 draw in Olympic sendoff game
Updated 17 July 2024
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Costa Rica keeps USA to 0-0 draw in Olympic sendoff game

Costa Rica keeps USA to 0-0 draw in Olympic sendoff game

WASHINGTON: Costa Rica played the United States women’s national team to a goal-less draw on Tuesday in the Americans’ sendoff match before departing for the Paris Olympics.

US captain Lindsey Horan told a crowd of nearly 19,000 spectators they were undaunted about their chances in France despite the draw.

“We wish we would have gotten the win,” she said. “But we’re going to go out and do our thing at the Olympics. This team is amazing. We’re going to represent this country so well and we’ll do everything possible to being back a gold medal.”

Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez and a swarming defensive effort frustrated a patient US squad to earn the Ticas a draw after losses in their first 17 matches against the Americans.

The US women outshot Costa Rica 26-2, forcing 12 saves from Bermudez and taking all 16 corners in the match.

“It takes a lot of patience to play against a low block. Costa Rica did it really well,” US midfielder Sophia Smith said. “It was definitely challenging for us but it was a good test because we’re going to face that in the Olympics.

“I know we can create chances. We created I don’t know how many chances tonight. It’s getting one in the back of the net, no matter how that looks. That will come.”

While it was a disappointment against a defensive-minded squad for new coach Emma Hayes and her US team, it showed the Americans what they need to do before they start to play for gold next week in France.

“That was a big message from Emma at the end of the game — don’t be frustrated,” Smith said. “We wanted a result from this but these games are preparation for something bigger.

“We need to peak when we need to peak and that’s at the start of the Olympics. We’re calm about it. We’re not frustrated. We trust the process. We know things will go our way when we need them to.”

The American women begin Olympic Group B play on July 25 against Zambia at Nice and also face Germany and Australia in group matches at Marseille.

“I think it’s going to be amazing,” Smith said. “I’m so excited to be going with this group. I’m excited to get the ball rolling in France. This group has a lot of potential and good things in store.”

The United States have won four Olympic women’s football titles — in 1996 on home soil and three in a row in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

US midfielder Rose Lavelle, who helped win the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, was a late scratch from the match due to leg tightness. Korbin Albert replaced her in the US starting lineup.

The Americans have three wins and a draw without surrendering a goal under England’s Hayes.

“I think we’ve made good, nice progress,” Hayes said. “When you take over a team and you’ve got to implement quite a lot, they have adapted to those ideas really well.

“We’re going into the Olympics with an idea of what we look to do most of our moments but now we’re starting to add some adaptations.”

Smith and Mallory Swanson were each denied on early chances by Bermudez while Trinity Rodman was offside on another US opportunity.

Bermudez and Rodman collided as the keeper denied Horan in the 24th minute. Bermudez also grabbed a Horan header in the 40th minute and thwarted Smith shortly before halftime.

Bermudez batted away a Smith chance in the 49th minute and deflected Horan’s kick in the 50th to keep Las Ticas level.

Horan found the net in the 55th minute only for the offside flag to be raised.

Bermudez deflected away a Rodman centering pass in extra time and Horan nodded a header over the crossbar in the final seconds.


Hard Rock Stadium hits back at CONMEBOL after Copa final chaos

Hard Rock Stadium hits back at CONMEBOL after Copa final chaos
Updated 17 July 2024
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Hard Rock Stadium hits back at CONMEBOL after Copa final chaos

Hard Rock Stadium hits back at CONMEBOL after Copa final chaos

MIAMI:  Hard Rock Stadium defended the security measures in place for Sunday’s Copa America final after CONMEBOL accused the venue of ignoring advice that might have prevented the chaotic incidents that held up the game.

The showpiece final between Colombia and Argentina at the Miami venue was delayed by 82 minutes as overwhelmed security struggled to get fans inside after ticketless fans rushed the entry points.

CONMEBOL, the governing body for football in South America, suggested that local organizers had failed to follow suggested procedures such as setting up an outer perimeter to screen ticketless fans.

“We regret that the acts of violence produced by malicious people have tarnished a final that was ready to be a great celebration of sport,” CONMEBOL said in their statement, adding that CONMEBOL “was subject to the decisions made by the Hard Rock Stadium authorities, according to the contractual responsibilities established for security operations.”

Stadium officials said Tuesday that security measures were jointly decided by the venue, CONMEBOL and local law enforcement.

“Hard Rock Stadium has safely hosted hundreds of world-class events in its 37-year history, including Super Bowls, major international soccer matches, Formula 1, NFL and college football, headline concert tours and other global events,” management of the venue said in a statement.

“In each of those, security was a joint effort among the organizer, local law enforcement agencies and the venue.

“As we’ve previously said, Hard Rock Stadium worked collaboratively with CONMEBOL, CONCACAF and local law enforcement agencies on security both leading up to and during the Copa America tournament.

“The agencies met regularly, including daily security briefings throughout the month-long tournament. Hard Rock Stadium implemented, and in many cases exceeded, CONMEBOL’s security recommendations throughout the tournament and the Final.”

The disturbing scenes before the final, won 1-0 by Argentina, immediately raised concerns for the 2026 World Cup which will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Local police, overwhelmed by the situation despite the presence of 800 officers, said they detained 27 people and ejected 55 others from the venue.

It wasn’t the only concerning security incident during the tournament.

On Wednesday, Uruguay players were involved in a brawl with Colombian fans in the stands after their 1-0 semifinal defeat in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Gareth Southgate says it’s ‘time for change’ and announces he will step down as England manager

Gareth Southgate says it’s ‘time for change’ and announces he will step down as England manager
Updated 17 July 2024
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Gareth Southgate says it’s ‘time for change’ and announces he will step down as England manager

Gareth Southgate says it’s ‘time for change’ and announces he will step down as England manager
  • Southgate’s contract was due to expire this year and his announcement comes after months of uncertainty surrounding his future
  • Southgate achieved what no other England manager has by leading his team to two finals, including a first on foreign soil

LONDON: After eight years, four major tournaments and two finals, Gareth Southgate announced he was stepping down as England manager on Tuesday, saying it was “time for change.”

Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Spain in the European Championship final proved to be his last game in charge of the national team.

“As a proud Englishman, it has been the honor of my life to play for England and to manage England. It has meant everything to me, and I have given it my all,” he said. “But it’s time for change, and for a new chapter.”

Southgate’s contract was due to expire this year and his announcement comes after months of uncertainty surrounding his future.

Mikel Oyarzabal’s 86th-minute winner in Berlin was a painful way to end his reign after he transformed the fortunes of England’s underperforming national team.

Hired in 2016, he led England to back-to-back finals at the Euros and to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018.

But, ultimately, he was unable to end the nation’s decades-long wait for a first major trophy since the World Cup in 1966.

“Gareth, I want to thank you — not as the President of the FA, but as an England fan,” Prince William said on X. “Thank you for creating a team that stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s finest in 2024. Thank you for showing humility, compassion, and true leadership under the most intense pressure and scrutiny. And thank you for being an all-round class act. You should be incredibly proud of what you’ve achieved. W.”

Southgate said before the European Championship that it would likely be his last tournament if England did not win.

During it, he faced fierce criticism for the team’s early performances and some fans threw plastic beer cups in his direction at the end of the 0-0 draw with Slovenia in the group phase.

But he achieved what no other England manager has by leading his team to two finals, including a first on foreign soil.

“Gareth has made the impossible job possible and laid strong foundations for future success. He is held in the highest regard by the players, the backroom team, by everyone at the FA and across the world of football,” said Mark Bullingham, chief executive of the English Football Association.

Before Southgate’s arrival England had won only seven knockout games at tournaments since 1966. The team won nine during his tenure.

England was also in the top five of FIFA’s rankings for six years under Southgate. Previously its longest run had been seven months.

Southgate was not an obvious choice to take over when hired after Sam Allardyce’s one-match reign came to an end after just 67 days in charge.

He didn’t have a stellar managerial career, with a three-year spell at Middlesbrough his only job in club soccer.

But he was well-respected within the FA for his work with England’s under-21 team and he exceeded all expectations with the senior job.

The World Cup semifinal in 2018 came after England had suffered the humiliation of being eliminated by Iceland at Euro 2016 and failed to advance beyond the group stage of the World Cup in 2014.

England had not advanced to a semifinal since Euro 96 and hadn’t reached that stage of a World Cup since 1990.

At the Euros in 2021, Southgate went one better by leading his team to the final, which it lost to Italy in a penalty shootout.

England were tied 1-1 with Spain in the final on Sunday before Oyarzabal’s late winner.

“We look back at Gareth’s tenure with huge pride — his contribution to the English game, including a significant role in player development, and in culture transformation has been unique. However, it is his record of winning tournament games which is most extraordinary,” Bullingham said.

Southgate was widely seen as a unifying figure during a period of political upheaval in English politics and society, taking over the national team shortly after a divisive referendum on leaving the European Union and seeing five different prime ministers during his time in charge.

“Gareth Southgate’s greatest achievement was not on the pitch, but in the standard that he has set for how a role model and representative of our country should conduct themselves,” Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said on X. “His legacy will be a generation of young people who have learned from him that leadership is primarily about decency, integrity and bringing honor to others. That is worth more to our country than any trophy.”

Now thoughts will turn to finding Southgate’s successor and the FA said the process was already underway.

Jurgen Klopp stepped down as Liverpool manager at the end of last season, but the German has said he wants to take a break.

Former Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is out of work, as well as former Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel.

Sarina Wiegman has led the England Women’s team to success in the Euros and also to the final of the World Cup last year.

Leading English contenders could include Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, former Chelsea bosses Graham Potter and Frank Lampard and England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley.

England play Ireland in the Nations League on Sept. 7, but the FA said it was prepared to go into that match with an interim coach, rather than rush to a decision on its next manager.


Colombia’s football federation president and son among 27 arrested in chaos at Copa America final

Colombia’s football federation president and son among 27 arrested in chaos at Copa America final
Updated 16 July 2024
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Colombia’s football federation president and son among 27 arrested in chaos at Copa America final

Colombia’s football federation president and son among 27 arrested in chaos at Copa America final
  • Both men are facing three counts of felony battery on an official after being accused of fighting multiple stadium security guards
  • In a statement released Monday, CONMEBOL said it regrets the scene in which countless fans entered the stadium without tickets and “tarnished” the event

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida: Colombia’s football federation president and his son were among 27 people arrested during the crowd control issues that broke out Sunday at the Copa America final between Argentina and Colombia, police said Monday.

Ramon Jesurun and his son Ramon Jamil Jesurun were detained after the event at Hard Rock Stadium and charged, Miami-Dade police detective Andre Martin told The Associated Press.

Both men are facing three counts of felony battery on an official after being accused of fighting multiple stadium security guards. Arrest records said both men tried to go onto the field through a tunnel where media was gathering after the match. They were stopped by security, and the police report said they “became irate” at the delay. A verbal altercation eventually turned physical with a guard placing an “open palm” on Ramon Jamil Jesurun’s chest to “guide him back” and the younger Jesurun grabbing the guard “around his neck” and pulling him to the ground before throwing “two punches that impacted” the guard, the report said. The two men were placed into custody after midnight.

Colombia’s football federation didn’t immediately respond Monday to a request for comment from the AP.

Ramon Jesurun, 71, has been president of the Colombian football federation since 2015 and is a vice president of CONMEBOL, South American football’s governing body that organizes the Copa America tournament.

Ramon Jesurun, the head of Colombia’s football federation, is shown in this police booking photo after an altercation at the stadium shortly after midnight, according to arrest reports by Miami police, in Miami, Florida, Monday. (Reuters)

In a statement released Monday, the organization said it regrets the scene in which countless fans entered the stadium without tickets and “tarnished” the event. The game was delayed for more than an hour as authorities worked to control the situation, eventually deciding to let some fans in without going through security checkpoints.

“In this situation, CONMEBOL was subject to the decisions made by the Hard Rock Stadium authorities, according to the contractual responsibilities established for security operations,” the organization said. “In addition to the preparations determined in this contract, CONMEBOL recommended to these authorities the procedures proven in events of this magnitude, which were NOT taken into account.”

Hard Rock Stadium — the site of 2026 World Cup matches — said security was a shared responsibility between its stadium officials, the organization, CONCACAF (the governing body that oversees football in North and Central America and the Caribbean) and local police.

“More than double the personnel” used for a typical event were onsite Sunday, a stadium spokesperson said in a news release.

Miami-Dade police said more than 800 law enforcement officers were at the match. In addition to the arrests, 55 people were ejected, they said.

It was a chaotic scene just hours before the scheduled 8 p.m. start of the championship match between the two South American countries: Fans forced their way in and jumped over security railings and ran past police officers and stadium attendants, some appearing hysterical as they searched for the people they arrived with.

There appeared to be significant damage to the venue as a result. Video and images posted to social media showed the shattered side railings of an escalator inside the stadium, with shoes, soda cans, reading glasses and articles of clothing left behind. Security railings at a checkpoint in the southwest entrance to the stadium were bent over as thousands of people, including crying children, pushed against them.

The Hard Rock Stadium release said stadium officials communicated with tournament organizers around 8 p.m. and decided to open the gates to both ticketed and unticketed fans who were thrust against the entrance in fear of stampedes and serious injuries. The gates were then closed with many ticketed fans left outside.

The stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, which is home to the NFL’s Dolphins, will be the site of seven World Cup matches in 2026, including a quarterfinal and third-place match.

FIFA organizes the World Cup and is a different organization from CONMEBOL. FIFA is an international federation that oversees more than 200 affiliated associations under regional bodies like CONMEBOL.

Ramon Jesurun is also a member of the FIFA Council.

FIFA did not immediately respond Monday to the AP’s request for comment on the crowd control issues and how it would prevent similar problems in 2026.

Attorney Steve Adelman, a crowd control expert and vice president of the Event Safety Alliance, said Hard Rock organizers failed to understand that Sunday’s game would bring out passionate fans desperate to see their teams, some willing to force their way inside.

“A match between fans of two rival South American nations is about as passionate as you’re going to get,” he said.

Adelman said organizers should have learned from the 2021 Euro Cup final at London’s Wembley Stadium, where ticketless England fans forced their way inside for their team’s match with Italy. The melee injured 19 police officers and resulted in 53 arrests. In 1989, 97 people were fatally crushed at a major English match when fans forced their way into the stadium.

“Unfortunately, international football matches have been marked by this sort of aggressive supporter behavior,” Adelman said. “This behavior is not desirable, it’s not good, but it is reasonably foreseeable. ... They needed to plan for the crowd they were likely to have, not the crowd they wished they had.”