Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Visiting soccer fans banned in Argentina after recent killing

Unfortunately, soccer and violence often go hand in hand all over the world. The latest serious incident to take place in the South American nation of Argentina has led the (AFA) Argentine Football Association to ban away fans from games. The ban was announced after a fan was killed by a rubber bullet fired by police officers who were trying to stop a violent brawl between hooligans.

 A fan of the team Lanus was shot on June 10 as hooligans clashed with police in the region of La Plata, which is close to the capital city of Buenos Aires. The fighting took place before and during a game between Lanus and Estudiantes, who were playing at their home stadium. There have now been over 70 deaths due to soccer violence in Argentina since 2000.

This is the first time in the nation’s history that away fans have been banned from attending games. The country’s soccer leagues have long had a reputation for violence as rival gangs often fight with each other on a regular basis. Some of the violent incidents reach back as far as the early 1900s. Those responsible for the majority of the violence are known locally as Barras Bravas, which means fierce blocks.

In most cities, the Barras Bravas are in control of the areas around the soccer stadiums. The hooligans then clash with visiting gangs before and after soccer games. However, on too many occasions the violence has now flared during contests. Many of the Barras Bravas gangs have tried to extort money from the teams they support. According to Argentine soccer managers, gang leaders demand money from the teams in a sort of protection racket.

Not only do the gangs of hooligans disrupt the local soccer leagues, but they’ve also caused trouble at several international tournaments and World Cup events. A gang of the hooligans was deported from South Africa in 2010 during the World Cup as they were in the country to battle against rival fans. After the recent death, officials in the Buenos Aires region banned visiting fans, but that was soon changed to include every professional league in the entire country.

Ricardo Casal, a security minister for one of Argentina’s regions, said away fans will be banned until soccer authorities show they’re serious about putting an end to soccer violence. The incident in La Plata got out of hand when a brawl started outside of the stadium and hundreds of hooligans that support the Lanus team left their seats to try to get involved in it. Police tried to keep control of the situation and a 42-year-old fan named Javier Gerez was killed when he was hit by a rubber bullet and another fan was seriously injured during the melee. The game was then canceled at half time.

Although police officers put their lives on the line when working at soccer games, three officers were arrested while the government investigates the matter. In addition, the Lanus soccer club released a statement which accused the officers of police brutality. Casal said thousands of police officers are sent to soccer games every week in Argentina to keep the peace and these forces should be policing local neighborhoods instead. He added that they shouldn’t have to stop fights between rival gangs of hooligans.

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