On Sunday, several hours before a pre-season game that was to be played at the Nuevo Gasometro, the stadium home to Argentine club San Lorenzo, two fans of the the visiting Boca Juniors team were killed in a showdown between rival factions of the club’s (in)famous Barra Brava (supporter club) La Doce (12th Man).
Needless to say, the match was called off; but while what happened is disturbing, anyone who knows and follows Argentine soccer knows this is nothing new. And despite certain potential measures and talk, nothing will get resolved anytime soon.
For starters, the potential for something to occur was not unpredicted. On the contrary, there were rumblings that a showdown before this game was bound to happen because of an ongoing power struggle between two rival factions within La Doce. In Sunday’s edition of the national daily Clarin, there was mention of this happening.
Sunday’s incident comes on the heels of the death of a Lanus fan last month as supporters of the club clashed with security officers in an away game. This led to the authorities to ban away fans for the final two league fixtures. This was just the latest in many band-aid, half-hearted measures that have been taken over the years to deal with the issue of fan violence in Argentina.
Several writers have wondered out loud and asked a few questions about what can be done, while offering solutions to preventing such incidents in the future. While I understand where they are coming from, this shows a clear failure to understand the general situation in Argentina and Argentine soccer right now.
For starters, this is not just an issue that plagues the Argentine Futbol Association (AFA), but all of Argentine society. The fact is that that there has not been any potential solution from a populist government lead by Christina Fernandez de Kirchner given that those who are involved in and run the barra bravas are the very same people she draws her political support from.
If the barra bravas do not have not worry political and police authorities, many of whom they are in bed with, of course they will continue to engage in violence and violent acts.
Secondly, the AFA does not have the ground to admonish teams beyond simple acts like forcing teams to play closed-door games and banning away fans at games. Also, the issue of security and coordinating security is a responsibility of the club and the authorities.
Sunday’s incident took place before Boca barra brava supporters crossed into the first line of security, but even then, it was clear that the number of officers was not sufficient with suspicions of potential violence going down. In the end, it’s the regular supporter who gets the short end of the stick in having to put up with this nonsense in an indirect way.
While the incident on Sunday is a disturbing one, the fact that it is not a surprising one tells you all you need to know about violence surrounding Argentine soccer within the last decade. That said, to think certain measures can be taken to stop it would simply be naive.