As we said in our previous article, South America has one of the most passionate football fans around the world. The loyalty for a team is unmeasurable, the passion can’t be described and the chants of the supporters sound all over the place. This whole situation sounds spectacular as football is lived so vigorously, but actually everything is not so utopian.
To be more specific, there has been a little problem in South America that is almost as old as football itself: the Barras Bravas. The international synonym for this would be the hooligans, who have been the historical archenemy of police in football stadiums since the 60’s in Great Britain. The thing is that in South America these groups started showing up not just with violence, flags and chants, but with riots that are linked nowadays with drug dealing and political connections. All of this goes deeper than just football, and we’re going to show you how.
The ‘Barras Bravas’ were originated in Argentina around the end of the 1920’s. It is true that the real evidence of violence was seen until the 50’s, but thirty years before the traditional violent groups were already starting to emerge. For example, the first ‘Barra’ created in Argentina was “La barra de la goma”, which in 1927 was already conformed by a group of people that supported San Lorenzo de Almagro and produced a variety of bloodshed acts later on.
From 1922 to 1957 the clash amongst supporters was just starting to show up, with 12 deaths in 25 years. That gives us an average of less than half a death per year, which is still a staggering fact. Then, since the death of Alberto Mario Lineker in 1957, a supporter that was victim of police suppression, everything went out of control. Violence was started to use as a justification from the barras bravas, leading to a period of disorder.
On the following 25 years murders increased drastically, eight times more on comparison to the previous period: 103 victims. Yes, you read it correctly, all those people died “because of football”, so the sport we love started to become a major concern in Argentina’s security. Years went by and things remained similar up to now, leaving a heartbreaking statistic of 317 deaths in Argentina due to the ‘barras bravas’.
BOCA Juniors ‘La 12’ while a match is being played.
It goes beyond defending the shield on your chest
The classic argument given by a violent fan is that they would do anything to support their team, even ‘kill’ another fan that has offended the football club they love. This goes beyond a rational behavior, but is not the only true argument about why the barras bravas still exist today. CNN published an article where they describe the whole insight of the situation, describing how drugs and political connections are involved.
The ‘barras’ just use the context of supporting a football team as an alibi, with the sole purpose of dealing with drugs and use violence to justify any act connected to drug trafficking. This way, law is softer on them for the crimes committed and so they could scape the harsh reality of facing a drug-related crime.
On the other hand, politicians tend to offer subsidies to these groups in exchange of political support, that goes by the hand with favors needed in some extreme cases. Some groups have been formed to fight these sad scenarios, such as Salvemos al fútbol, but lack of budget to do more incisive campaigns against this situation.
It is crucial to mention that this doesn’t occur just in Argentina, as through the years it has propelled throughout the continent and reached Brasil, Chile, Uruguay and Colombia. In all of these countries the same links have been discovered, where the football industry is getting dirtier and more young kids are falling into this grieve context.
Could it be seen nowadays?
Sadly, yes. The latest example was the aggression caught up on video of a group of Argentinians kicking a Croatian fan, just before the World Cup match between both ended 0-3 with a solid victory of the Europeans. It is vital to clarify that this is not the behavior of every fan, as some other Argentinians were the one that separated the aggressors from the victim. The act was performed by a few, but the bad image remains for all the people of Argentina.
Now, let’s not talk about the World Cup. In Brazil there’s a recent case that is causing quite a stir, where the president of Fluminense, Pedro Abad, is giving away tickets to the ‘ultras’ of the team. This is relevant because of all the political investigations around this situation, concerning reselling of tickets, micro-trafficking and violence among the supporters.
When we talk about Colombia, one peculiar case is the one of Cristopher Jacome Sanguino, a Colombian fan that entered the stadium in an unexpected way. The 17 year-old sadly died by the hands of a hitman according to Revista Semana, with the youngster being a fan of Deportivo Cúcuta. Now, if you live for football, what a better funeral than at your stadium, right? That is what happened, when Christopher was entered to the stadium inside a coffin during a match. It may sound funny, but this occurred to give a proper goodbye to this fan part of “La banda del indio”, Cúcuta’s barra brava.
The photo says it all.
“La pelota no se mancha”
This has been a powerful phrase used in all the continent to show disdain towards the ‘Barras Bravas’. The majority of the people just want to feel free to go the stadium without fear, accompanied by their families to enjoy a nice football match. South America has been the place where the best footballers in history have emerged, such as Pelé, Maradona and Messi to name a few, so why miss the next star when people could go to the stadium and enjoy wonderful football?Just remember the translation: “the ball doesn’t get dirty”, meaning that football does not deserved to be related with blood.