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Argentine held for 'racism' released

April 16, 2005 13:32 IST

An Argentine footballer has been released after spending 40 hours in Brazilian police custody for an alleged racist insult during a Libertadores Cup match on Wednesday night.

Television pictures showed Quilmes defender Leandro Desabato leaving a Sao Paulo police station after his representatives paid bail of 10,000 Real ($3,878).

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He was arrested at the end of Wednesday's match between Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's biggest clubs and twice Libertadores winners, and Quilmes, an unfashionable team from a Buenos Aires suburb.

The Libertadores is the South American equivalent of the Champions League.

Desabato, charged with slander aggravated by racism, had been granted bail late on Thursday but his release was delayed while the money was paid.

He was bundled into a car and Sao Paulo supporters waiting outside banged their fists on the vehicle as it drove away.

Police said that Desabato would still have to appear at a court later on Friday before leaving the country, so as to sign a pledge that he would return to Brazil when summoned.

The 26-year-old defender was expected to fly out to Buenos Aires later on Friday with the rest of his team, who waited behind while the case is settled.

Desabato was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Grafite -- who was sent off for retaliation -- in the first half of the Group Three match.

No action was taken against Desabato by the referee, although his team-mate Carlos Arano was sent off along with Grafite.

At the final whistle, police came onto the field and arrested Desabato. He was taken to a police station, questioned and kept overnight. He was later transferred to another station where he spent Thursday night.

Quilmes coach Gustavo Alfaro said: "It was a farce arranged by the Sao Paulo players. The witnesses are two television viewers who said they read his [Desabato's] lips."

Quilmes vice-president Jose Luis Meizner added: "This is not a coincidence, it seems that in Brazil there's a competition with Europe to see which country is leading the fight against racism."

Julio Garcia, another Quilmes director, on Friday criticised South American Football Confederation (CSF) president Nicolas Leoz for saying that Desabato could face a lengthy ban.

"The CSF is hypocritical," he told reporters. "It just wants to help the big teams and forgets about the rest."


Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, whose team face Argentina in a World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires in June, said racism was a serious problem but, in this case, the authorities had gone too far.

"I'd preferred it not to have gone beyond the sporting boundaries," he said.

"I think that this fact which happened at the Morumbi [stadium] in a highly competitive game should have remained between Sao Paulo and Quilmes.

"Brazil and Argentina are two world champions, who have nothing to do with a game between these teams. I hope our match stays within the sporting arena and is settled on the field, in the cleanest way possible."


Brian Homewood
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