herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Brazil banning over the top, claim players

A DUBLIN soccer team who were booted out of Brazil have returned home "bewildered and devastated".

Twenty team members and 11 officials weren’t even allowed out of the airport when they arrived for a dream trip to the South American country.

The Killester United sportsmen won the trip of a lifetime after they emerged victorious in the Athletic Union League.

But they were “corralled” for nine hours on arrival at Sao Paulo International Airport by over-zealous authorities, they told the Herald.

They were then marched onto a flight out of Brazil, according to squad members. Club officials and team members spoke to the Herald as they arrived back at Dublin Airport yesterday.

They claimed their trip to play against the professional Santos ‘B’ team and to meet Brazil legend Zico was stolen from them by a “harshly unfair” decision by Brazilian authorities to deny them entry to the country.

The AUL Premier A league winners had a sixhour stopover in Madrid on the journey between Ireland and Brazil.

There were complaints from some passengers on the Brazil-bound night flight that they were unable to sleep. Two Irish players were accused of committing “an illegal offence” by opening a duty-free bottle of vodka and drinking from it.

Minor

Squad members claimed the entire group were victimised because of “a relatively minor” exchange of words between the two Killester players and two Brazilian women on the flight.

“The two team members were sitting some distance from the Brazilian lady and her female friend. There was no physical contact and nobody left their seats,” said Killester team manager Joey Graydon.

“Cabin crew members took the drink away from the two lads and we thought that was the end of the matter. Nothing else happened and we thanked the cabin crew at the end of the flight.

“But the Brazilian woman was seen talking to a policeman at the airport and the next thing we were all held up by the officials at the airport. We still don’t know what the woman said. They never told us.

“The AUL officials travelling with us arranged for a lawyer to go to the airport to speak to the authorities but they wouldn’t meet the lawyer. We heard that Irish Embassy staff had spoken to the Brazilian authorities and it was believed that the two lads would be sent home.

“But after nine hours at the airport we were all nearly frog-marched back onto a flight,” he claimed.

Mr Graydon added later: “We heard afterwards that two people made complaints and that there were five witnesses.”

A spokeswoman for Iberia Airlines said: “No complaint was made by the airline about the behaviour.” Killester club official Rory Fitzpatrick said: “We were treated as if we had committed a crime. The action was so disproportionate.

“Everyone knew we were representing Killester and the AUL League and junior football in Ireland. The two guys feel they let everyone down. But they were only having a drink and a bit of a natter ... They were just a bit giddy, that’s all,” he said.

The returning squad did not identify the two players involved in the verbal altercation on the flight. However, player Darren Murphy (28) said the entire group were treated badly: “It was a night flight and passengers were trying to sleep.

But there was a comedy film showing and a few of the lads were laughing.

“What will the Brazilians do when they’re in charge of the World Cup finals with fans singing and drinking?”

Team-mate Ciaran McLoughlin (25) said: “It’s heartbreaking. It’s all so surreal. Lots of kids on the team were saving for months for the trip. Now I just feel hatred for Brazil.”

Player Fran Matthews (26) claimed: “We were treated like terrorists.”

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