Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Copa América chaos ‘should never have taken place,’ Miami-Dade officials say

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Copa América fans created a chaotic situation at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Sunday ahead of the match between Argentina and Colombia.

Several fans rushed past security and stadium attendants without tickets and belined toward the seats. The rush of fans delayed the start of the match for more than an hour. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Chief Public Safety Officer James Reyes criticized the situation in a statement as Argentina and Colombia came down to the wire.

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Fans try to enter the stadium amid disturbances prior to the CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium on July 14, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Fans rush the gate

A fan of Colombia reacts at the gate entrance after some clashes between fans and police officers prior to the CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium on July 14, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“We are outraged by the unprecedented events tonight’s Copa America finals. The Copa America final is organized by Conmebol, and Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) provides security support along with other law enforcement agencies,” their joint statement read.

Cava and Reyes said more than 550 officers were assigned to the stadium, and more personnel were brought from outside Miami-Dade Police’s jurisdiction to help.

“Our top priority must be the safety and security of all our residents and visitors, and we urge everyone in attendance at tonight’s game to abide by all directives from law enforcement and security personnel for the safety of all attendees,” they said, adding they received a security briefing from officials at the stadium and urged fans to listen to the officers.

Officers subdue a fan

Police officers try to arrest a Colombian fan outside the stadium for the CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium on July 14, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Officers detain a Colombian fan

Police officers try to arrest a Colombian fan outside the stadium for the CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium on July 14, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

“Let’s be clear: The situation should never have taken place and cannot happen again. We will work with stadium leadership to ensure that a full review of tonight’s events takes place immediately to evaluate the full chain of events, in order to put in place needed protocols and policies and all future games.”

LIONEL MESSI IN TEARS AS HE LEAVES COPA AMÉRICA FINAL WITH INJURY

Videos of the rush toward the gates showed unruly fans running past security personnel. Other videos showed fans completely destroying an escalator while others tried to get into the airducts.

A fan named Claudia, who traveled to the game from Mendoza, Argentina, told The Associated Press it was tough to breathe as police tried to subdue the chaos.

“They can’t organize a World Cup! It’s impossible,” Claudia told the AP in Spanish. “People stuck against the gate for hours, unable to breathe. There was a senior citizen, look at him, look at him (motioning at his young son), left without water. No water, nothing.”

The Argentina and Colombia players were taken off of the field as security tried to control the chaos and were allowed back on at 8:38 p.m. ET.

“It is tough to explain what happened before the game,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said through an interpreter. “We had players waiting for their family members to get into the stadium, waiting for an hour. We had to start a match without knowing where our family members were. I think the players for Colombia were going through the same thing. It was very weird.”

Officers detain a fan

Security personnel detain a Colombia supporter who tried to get into the stadium without tickets ahead of the Conmebol 2024 Copa América tournament final football match between Argentina and Colombia at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on July 14, 2024. (JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Hard Rock Stadium said it “takes pride in hosting world-class events year-round in a safe and successful manner.”

“We understand there are disappointed ticket holders who were not able to enter the stadium after the perimeter was closed and we will work in partnership with CONMEBOL to address those individual concerns,” the stadium added. “Ultimately, there is nothing more important than the health and safety of all guests and staff, and that will always remain our priority.

“We will continue to work with law enforcement to identify and hold criminals accountable who engaged in illegal conduct tonight. It is disappointing that a night of celebration was impacted by unlawful and unsafe behavior, and we will fully review the processes and protocols in place tonight and work with law enforcement to ensure such an event never happens again.”

Argentina fans outside Hard Rock Stadium

Fans of Argentina chant outside the stadium prior to the CONMEBOL Copa América 2024 Final match between Argentina and Colombia at Hard Rock Stadium on July 14, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Several fans were allowed into the stadium without tickets, while others who had tickets were not allowed into the stadium.

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Argentina ended up winning the match 1-0 in the 112th minute of extra time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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