The AFA Executive committee are due to meet tonight to discuss the proposed ban of all visiting supporters in a bid to control the football violence that has dominated the headlines in the opening 5 weeks of this season. It is understood that there is disagreement among members of the AFA and the leading figures within the Primera division clubs so this may not materialise but the recent incidents have caused alarm within the AFA and also the government. Football violence has long been a problem in Argentina and while the AFA and the clubs have done very little to try and curtail this, what is the thinking behind this most recent proposal?
This weekend’s fixtures once again showed the dark side to the Argentinian game as most the news channels were littered with images and videos of football violence. Colon hooligans attacked a bus on the motorway carrying some River Plate fans, the Boca power struggle in their hooligan organisation La Doce continued to rumble on with cars being burnt out and rioting and shooting involving Quilmes hooligans seem to have been the final straw as far as this year’s events are concerned. In the opening few weeks of this season there have been several incidents and now the governing bodies are looking for some solutions. The course of action in all metropolitan divisions is to stop all visiting supporters but the AFA are now wondering if they could apply this to the Primera Division. Understandably there is some concern from fans and the clubs that this will damage the game and not actually get to the root of the problem.
There are too many incidents to detail all of them but several members of the AFA are keen to implement this drastic move and it is believed that Julio Grondona is in agreement, but it remains to be seen whether they will push through such a hugely unpopular rule especially when Buenos Aires’ ‘big 5’ are some of the clubs opposed to it.
Matias Lammens, San Lorenzo President, said that “driving the people from the stands is not the solution and they need to get to the root of the problem” and this was echoed by several of his counterparts who argued that much of the violence is actual internal within the clubs and not with visiting supporters. This is true to some extent, as we have already witnessed a death when rival factions of Tigre’s barra bravas clashed and the long running soap opera of Boca’s barra power struggle continues between ex-boss, Rafa de Zeo and current head, Mauro Martin but it doesn’t cover all the violence and it certainly doesn’t get to the “root” of the problem.
This so called “root” perhaps understates this issue as football violence is now so engrained it is perhaps more akin to an iceberg. These incidents are just the tip that is visible to all but the real problem is lying out of sight as the AFA and the clubs protect and fund these hooligan organisations. The club Presidents require the support of the barra bravas to gain power and remain in their positions and in return supply them with tickets and merchandise so that they can be run like businesses and ensure that they have their continued support. The AFA all too often make noises without actually taking any action and it will be interesting to see if this recent discussion will simply be another case in point.
No one is in agreement on this but one thing is certain banning visiting supporters would remove something that is so special to Argentinian football – the unparalleled atmosphere within stadiums around the country. Jose Mansur, President of Godoy Cruz said that by banning away fans “you banish the colour and folklore of football.”Here is some footage of the incident involving Colon fans that has been getting heavy rotation on the news channels