Ex-Arsenal wonderkid caught up in Brazil horror game speaks out

Life at Arsenal must seem like a lifetime ago for Fran Merida.

Gone are the comfortable surrounding of the Emirates, for he traded them in a long while ago.

Fran Merida's career now sees him playing in Brazil - and he was involved in the game which made front and back page news around the world due to horrific violence between supporters.

The Spaniard plays for Atletico Paranaense whose fans clashed with those of Vasco da Gama on Sunday night - with one airlifted to hospital in a critical condition.

Play was suspended for 70 minutes as a helicopter landed on the pitch with three more supporters seriously injured.

Atletico Paranaense defender Luiz Alberto was pictured in tears on the pitch as he described seeing fans beaten and kicked unconscious.

23-year-old Merida, who quit Arsenal for Atletico Madrid was an unused substitute in the match which his side eventually won 5-1.

He was tracked down by Spanish newspaper El Confidencial and told of his experience.

"It was incredible, a disaster...

"The players were aware of what was happening in the stands, because we had family and friends witnessing the match by a few metres from the field.

"When they suspended the match I had a view of what was happening. What I hope is that lessons will be learned ahead of the World Cup.

"The players thought the fan was dead and so did I."

Merida was not quizzed on his future, with the Brazilian season now at a close.

His contract comes to an end on December 31 but the club have a clause written in where they can extend it a further two years.

After a tough start since his January switch, Merida broke into the team this Autumn, scoring on his debut, and became a regular from the bench.

If he is allowed to stick around, next season may just be the one where he kicks on and begins to start fulfilling his promise again which once saw Arsenal sign him from Barcelona.

image: © wonker

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