Photo via Visión Crítica

This weekend, there will be away fans present at football matches for the first time since 2013. The first match of the Primera División (First League) to brave this will be the Olimpo vs. Lanús fixture, on Saturday at 2 PM.

There will be two other matches later on in the weekend with away fans in Buenos Aires province: Estudiantes vs Sarmiento (La Plata) and San Lorenzo vs. Defensa y Justicia (Florencio Varela).

Away fans have been banned by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) to attend matches in all divisions since 2013, when a Lanús fan was killed during clashes between the police and violent fans that broke out in a match against Estudiantes. Javier Gerez, 42, was allegedly hit by a rubber bullet fired by the police and another was seriously injured when a crowd of Lanús fans left their seats to get involved in a massive fight going on outside of the stadium. The match was suspended at half time.

“We’ll start doing this slowly so as to not launch the process all of a sudden. But the use of police forces will not vary all that much because in matches today, there are almost as many police officers for one set of fans as there were when there were two sides of fans. We have to improve the logistics, not the amount of police officials,” said a spokesperson for Aprevide, the provincial agency in charge of preventing violence in sport. 

The government is also working on a plan that it claims will bring an end to barras bravas (football hooligans) by introducing an app called “Tribuna Segura” (Safe Stands), which will launch as a pilot program this Friday at a match between Huracán and Quilmes. The plan is based on having all fans present their DNIs and that the police will have Tribuna Segura on their phones to scan the bar code on the ID card to identify the fans’ background.

“The system is clear. Anyone who goes to the stadium has their DNI, it’s run through the scanner to verify whether or not that person has the right to enter or an arrest warrant” to their name, said Security Minister Patricia Bullrich.

Football violence has been a social problem in Argentina for some time but playing without away fans has made Argentine football a whole lot less interesting. Their return will certainly be welcomed. Here’s to hoping they’ll behave.