Lionel Messi believes there “could have been a tragedy” during the crowd trouble that delayed Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Brazil.
Police charged away fans after scuffles before kick-off in a part of the Rio de Janeiro stadium that Messi says contained players’ friends and family.
Messi and the Argentina players went over to try and calm the situation before returning to the dressing room.
“It was bad because we saw how they were beating people,” said Messi, 36.
“We went to the locker room because it was the best way to calm everything down, it could have ended in tragedy.
“You think about the families, the people who are there, who don’t know what’s going on and we were more concerned about that than playing a match that, at that point, was of secondary importance.”
Brazil captain Marquinhos, who joined the Argentina players on the pitch calling for calm in the stands, added: “We were worried about the families, women and children, that we were seeing in panic up there in the stands.
“Down on the pitch it was hard for us to understand what was going on, it was a very scary situation.”
The match was able to begin after 30-minute delay, with world champions Argentina winning 1-0 thanks to a goal from former Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi.
Newcastle midfielder Joelinton was sent off for Brazil, who lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time.
The five-time World Cup winners have now lost three successive qualifiers to sit sixth in the South American qualifying table, eight points behind leaders Argentina, and in the last spot that guarantees a place at the 2026 finals.