It is a sad fact that, much like 24-hour news coverage of natural disasters and war dulling our senses to tragedy, Argentine football fans can quickly become desensitised to violence. Whether it is rival groups of fans beating seven shades of the proverbial out of each other in the stadium, or armed thugs ambushing outside, it is easy to become blasé about the whole subject.
Hell, just ask AFA president Julio Grondona, who in his 35-year stint as Argentine football Caesar still seems not to care particularly if barra bravas take it upon themselves to tear each other to bits when they should be watching the match. “You enforce the laws, I invite you to take charge,” he recently told a shocked journalist when asked about the subject.
It still jars, though, to watch such scenes up close and personal. At the weekend we received another episode protagonised by ‘fans’ of Quilmes, which would not look out of place in cult urban dystopia flick The Warriors.
A rival faction of the clubs barra brava (imagine regular hooligans armed to the teeth with political weight and a great deal of money, and you get the picture) decided to take advantage of Monday’s key relegation clash with All Boys to try and wrest control of the terraces back from the ‘official’ leaders. The group led by ‘Dedo’ Becerra turned up early for the match, installing themselves in the middle of the stand.
How did that work out for them? Here is an idea…
In a fight that included knives, clubs and, most inexplicably, empty crates of beer (Quilmes, logically enough) the opposition took a frightful beating, after a fight that left 10 hurt, seven hospitalised and just three arrests. The shirtless guy in the video definitely won’t forget being repeatedly kicked in the head while on the floor, in sickening scenes of violence.
The blood was still drying on the concrete steps when the blame game started. “If the police operation fails it is not our problem, we did everything asked by [BA Province security chiefs] Aprevide,” stated Quilmes vice-president Andrés Meiszner, soap still on his hands from such frantic washing.
The fact is that none of this should surprise us. Such battles for power are inevitable in a sport which allows its violent fans to control vast sums of money through counterfeit merchandise, parking, and countless other concessions. And this is not even confined to football.
While the good readers of the Bubble may not be regular patrons of Quilmes’ stadium, Palermo might be more familiar ground. The ‘trapitos’ who park cars there are also under the barras’ employ: a report from NGO Defendamos Buenos Aires last month alleged that those groups skim more than 12 million pesos a month from that lucrative business in Capital Federal alone.
So the inevitable hand-wringing over the latest incident will continue for a few more days, before being consigned to the archives. But the real problems that afflict Argentine football, while not always as spectacular as seen in Quilmes, will continue to fester as long as no administrator or president takes on the task of removing the business of the barra brava once and for all.