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Argentina: Football Fans Call for “Stop” to Violence

Football, the sport that is watched and played the most in Argentina, has suffered an escalation of violence in recent months, sparking reactions from football fans across the country. While the issue of violence in football has always had a presence on the front pages of sports newspapers, recent events have caused a massive rejection from its fans.

The “barras bravas”

In order to understand the dynamics of Latin American and Argentinian football, it is important to understand “barras bravas“. The blog Tribus Urbanas [es] explains:

El término barra brava se emplea en América Latina para designar a aquellos grupos organizados dentro de una hinchada, respecto de un club de fútbol, que se caracterizan por producir diversos incidentes violentos, dentro y fuera del estadio de fútbol.

The term barra brava is used in Latin America to designate those groups organized into a group of fans, who follow a football club, which typically perpetrate several violent incidents inside and outside the football stadium.

Photo: Laura Schneider

The blog continues:

En Brasil se los denomina “torcidas organizadas”, mientras que en otros continentes son conocidos como hooligans o ultras. Generalmente las barras bravas utilizan banderas, lienzos y diferentes instrumentos musicales. También se caracterizan por ubicarse en las tribunas populares, aquellas que frecuentemente carecen de asientos y donde los espectadores deben ver el partido de pie.

In Brazil they are called “organized torcidas“, while in other continents they are known as hooligans or ultras. Generally the barras bravas use flags, banners and various musical instruments. They are also located in popular stands in football stadiums, stands that are often missing seats and where viewers must watch the game standing up.

Chronology of recent events

One of the electoral promises of President Javier Cantero of Club Atlético Independiente was the eradication of barras bravas, an idea which was not very well received and has brought consequences to the club's leaders, such as personal threats due to the refusal to hold meetings with the barra's leader.

President Javier Cantero [es] began a struggle that has the support of national authorities [es] and other football clubs, according to the blog Cosecha Roja [es]:

Pero el barra no quedó conforme. Subió las escaleras junto a su grupo, atravesó las vitrinas que muestran por qué a ese equipo lo llaman “El Rey de Copas”, y asaltó la oficina de Cantero. Encerrados en esa habitación, pidieron entradas para los partidos y micros para trasladarse. También le reclamaron por la prohibición de guardar banderas en el club. El dirigente había pedido que las retiraran por temor a que allí escondieran armas. Hubo gritos e insultos. Hasta que se fueron dejando atrás el aguijón de la amenaza.

Al revés de la regla que suele aplicar en estos casos, Cantero los denunció. Ese acto lo convirtió en la nueva figura de un fútbol argentino.

But the leader of the “barra brava” was not satisfied. He went up the stairs with his group, went through the windows that show why that team is called “The King of Cups”, and raided the office of Cantero. Locked in that room, they asked for match tickets and buses for transportation. They also complained about the prohibition to keep the flags in the club. The leader had asked to withdraw them due to fears that they would hide weapons there. There were shouts and insults. Until they left, leaving behind threats.

Contrary to the rule that usually applies in these cases, Cantero reported them. This act made ​​him the new figure of Argentine football.

On April 15, 2012, a supporter of the Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro was attacked during a match against the club Colon de Santa Fe, and on May 14, Argentine football took a fatal victim in the city of Rosario after the match between Newells Old Boys and Union de Santa Fe.

Prior to these events, on May 11, the school [es] that is run in the Independiente club received a bomb threat and 1,400 students were evacuated. On the other hand, the leaders of Club Atlético Banfield were physically assaulted by a group of people. Javier Szlifman in Pelota afuera [es] summarizes what happened during the month of May:

La situación vivida en Independiente es una muestra brutal del poder y la impunidad del grupo de hinchas más violento del fútbol argentino. Esta vez, los barras expusieron sus prácticas a la luz del día, a la vista de todos. Sus conductas corrientes no son ya a las sombras, símbolo de su crecimiento en los últimos 30 años.

The situation experienced in Independent is a brutal show of power and impunity of the most violent group of fans of Argentine football. This time, the “barra” presented their practices in the light of day, at everyone´s sight. Their behavior is no longer under shadows, a symbol of their growth in the last 30 years.
Police guarding the entrance to the stadium. Photo: Laura Schneider

Police guarding the entrance to the stadium. Photo: Laura Schneider

Until then, players continued their usual performance without considering that they could be directly affected by violent events, but on May 22, Colombian player  Giovanni Moreno, from Racing Club, was threatened by barras bravas from the same club. El Nuevo Herald [es] describes what happened:

Impulsada por las barras bravas, la violencia en el fútbol argentino se incrementó en forma notoria en los últimas días y su última víctima fue un jugador colombiano al que le pusieron un revólver en la rodilla a la salida de un entrenamiento.

Driven by “barras bravas”, violence in Argentine football increased in the last days and its last victim was a Colombian player who had a gun pointed at his knee while he was coming out of a practice session.

Those who have been most concerned about this violence are football fans, who converted the hashtag #BarrasBravas [es] on Twitter into a Trending Topc. For example, Alba Cardenas (@ solo_Alba) [es] says “enough” to the barras bravas, and Luis Fernando (@ GonzalezRozo) [es] tweets:

Las #BarrasBravas‬ son el cáncer del Fútbol Sudamericano.

The #BarrasBravas‬ are the cancer of South America football.

Another hashtag that has been trending is #Bastadebarras (“Enough with barras“) where Angela Whitman (@AnshuWitman) [es] writes a chant which became very popular:

Si sos hincha del fútbol tenés que gritar, barrabravas, barrabravas nunca mas. No me voy a cansar de decirlo. #BastaDeBarras

if you are a fan of football you have to shout, barrasbravas, barrasbravas, no more. I will not get tired of saying it #Bastadebarras

Meanwhile, Futbolistas Argentinos Agremiados [es], the professional association of football players, used their webpage [es] to ask that the guilty be punished:

No tenemos las herramientas, pero seguimos insistiendo para que el peso de la ley caiga con todo su rigor y castigue a quienes cometen acciones como la mencionada y como otras que nos han ocupado y preocupado del mismo modo en las distintas categorías del fútbol argentino. En medio de una lucha que ha buscado muchas fórmulas y en la que ojalá los buenos les ganen a los violentos, no vamos a rendirnos.

We do not have the tools, but we insist that the weight of the law fall with all its rigor and punish those who commit acts like the aforementioned and other who have occupied and worried in the same way different categories of Argentine football. In the midst of a battle that has sought many solutions and where hopefully the good will beat the violent, we will not give up.

Similarly, Rodrigo Olabiaga (@RodrigoOlabiaga) [es], asks:

#BastaDeBarras‬ en TODOS los clubes, no es una cuestión de colores. Hay que ponerle fin a estos delincuentes que manchan lo lindo del fútbol.

#BastaDeBarras‬ in every club, it is not a matter of colors. We must put an end to these criminals who stain the beauty of football.

Pablo Bebote Alvarez [es], leader of Independiente barra brava [es]- considered one of the most powerfull barras in Argentina – writes in his Facebook account on Saturday, May 26:

mañana [domingo 27 de mayo] la barra no va a la cancha hasta que nos dejen entran los bombos,asi el coprocede [Comision Provincial de Seguridad Deportiva] no tiene a nadie que molestar creo que se tiene que ocupar donde SI HAY PROBLEMAS,aca ya se demostro que no hubo amenasas y solo pediamos las banderas que el COPROCEDE le exigio a cantero que las saque asi el se enfrentava con nosotros y la gente en contra nuestra por pedir nuestras banderas

tomorrow [Sunday, May 27] the barra will not go to the stadium until they let us go in with our drums, so the coprocede [Provincial Commission of Sports Security] [es] has no one to bother. I think [the commission] should concentrate where THERE ARE PROBLEMS. We have proved that there were no threats and we were just asking for our flags that COPROCEDE demanded that Cantero bring out so he would have to face us and the people against us for asking for our flags.

At the closing of this post, Argentine football sees one more victim: Daniel Sosa (from the Lanus barra brava) [es] was killed and five others were injured in a confrontation before the start of a football match.

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