Soccer's Deadliest Fans: The Troubled World of Brazil's 'Organizadas'

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Earlier this year, before a classico against Cruzeiro, nine Galoucura directors, including many of the men in the room, had their cars stopped and searched after leaving the clubhouse. The police say they found two wooden clubs and an iron bar.

"It was a set up," says Saf, angrily. "There was no iron bar in the car, and just one club. Plus we knew they were watching us. If we were going to kill someone, we'd hardly do it with the police watching, would we?" He does not explain why there was a club in the car in the first place.

The feeling of being victimized by both the media and the police is common in both Recife and Belo Horizonte. "When we played in Sao Paulo last year, the police called me on my cell phone," says Thiago, a soft-spoken tattoo artist and Galoucura member. "They said that if I lit any flares at the game, I'd be arrested on the spot." He laughs. "I wasn't even going to the game!"

President Cesar Gordinho with other members of Galoucura.
President Cesar Gordinho with other members of Galoucura.
Bruno Poppe

The Brazilian police have a reputation for brutality, particularly when dealing with poorer citizens. A recent Amnesty International report, "Torture in 2014 – 30 years of unfulfilled promises," described "an increase in abusive behavior by the Brazilian police during the protests and in the run up to the 2014 World Cup."

This sinister ramp-up, of course, makes perfect sense to the Galoucura directors.  "They're trying to get rid of us," says Gordinho. "If there's a fight on the street corner these days, it's the fault of the torcidas organizadas, and the press call us bandidos and marginais. Why? Because the gringos are coming for the World Cup."

Juca Kfouri, however, does not believe the directors' claims of innocence. "I don't believe the directors don't know who the violent elements are. Nor do I accept that these violent elements aren't really part of the organizadas. Their great excuse is they can't control large parts of the organizadas, but if that's true, then they should leave! Someone has to be responsible."

A tone of weariness creeps into Kfouri's voice. "But on the other hand the police know who the culprits are too," he says. "So there is a complicity here involving police corruption, and also irresponsibility on the part of the directors of the football clubs, who are terrified of offending the organizadas."

Galoucura members Feijão and Pipoca (seated) and Macele (standing).
Galoucura members Feijão and Pipoca (seated) and Macele (standing).
Bruno Poppe

Kfouri then refers to Bill Buford's seminal 1990 study of English soccer hooligans, Among the Thugs, noting "if you treat a fan like an animal, he's going to act like an animal." 

In the Galoucura clubhouse, Gordinho admits his organizada is not blameless. "We've all had fights here," he says. "If we play against Flamengo, for example, and they come after us, what are we going to do? Stand there and take it? But we don't go out looking for trouble, that's the difference."

Instead, as with the World cup and Brazilian society, it seems that time after time, trouble comes to the organizadas 

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