Corinthians face Libertadores ban after fan death

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 22, 2013 08:10 hrs

Rio de Janeiro, Feb 22 (IANS) South American football's governing body Conmebol has vowed a full investigation into the death of a 14-year-old fan during Wednesday's Copa Libertadores match between Corinthians and San Jose.

Kevin Beltran Espada was killed after being struck by a flare allegedly thrown by a Corinthians fan during the 1-1 draw at Jesus Bermudez stadium in the Bolivian city of Oruro.

Brazilian media reported Wednesday that Corinthians, the reigning FIFA Club World Cup champions, could be excluded from the rest of this year's Copa Libertadores tournament under Conmebol's new disciplinary code.

But the organization's spokesman Nestor Benitez said it was too early to speculate on a possible punishment for the Brazilian club, Xinhua reports.

"We are waiting to get all the facts before making a decision. It's premature to say anything at this stage," Benitez said.

Bolivian police have arrested and withheld the passports of 12 Corinthians fans suspected of launching the flare.

The Sao Paulo club's left-back Fabio Santos said he was in favour of a ban.

"If we have to be excluded from the Libertadores and are certain that it means no more suffering and death, then without doubt I am totally in favour (of a ban)," Santos said.

Corinthians coach Tite broke down in tears during the post-match press conference, saying he would swap the Club World Cup trophy for the boy's life.

The incident also prompted two-time FIFA world player of the year Ronaldinho to write on Twitter: "The death of Kevin is a great shame. We have to unite to bring peace to football. Violence and sport do not mix."

Corinthians released a statement on Thursday expressing their "deep regret" over the tragedy.

"The club makes itself available to help in any way possible, knowing that nothing will take away the pain caused by the incident," the statement said.

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