Argentina losing hooliganism battle – Velez Sarsfield president Raul Gamez
The violence of barras bravas (hooligan gangs) is a stain on Argentine football, causing hundreds of deaths and a present ban on away fans has failed to curb it.
Fans of first division Huracan clashed with police on Saturday 18 April and an officer was hit in the face by a stone, local media reported.
“Here the battle is lost,” Velez Sarsfield president Raul Gamez said in an interview at the club’s El Fortin ground.
“The President of the republic says those [fans] who stand on the terraces are good lads,” he said, citing a comment by Cristina Fernandez when a group of barras were preparing for a government-sanctioned trip to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
“We were good lads 50 years ago when society was different, there were others customs, drugs were not within our reach,” added Gamez, a leader of hard core Velez fans in his youth.
The organisation Salvemos al Futbol (Let’s Save Football) has on its website www.salvemosalfutbol.org a list of 304 soccer-related deaths since 1922, 112 of them this century and three this year.
“Politicians need [barras] and use them as violent manual labour. Club directors want to get them off their backs, we make pacts with the barras, there’s no option because there are no guarantees [for our safety],” Gamez said.
Gamez was referring to the practice of sending thugs to cause trouble at political rallies and barras putting pressure on clubs and players to pay what amounts to protection money.
Barras also enjoy carte blanche to run parking rackets and food stalls outside stadiums and are given free tickets and transport to away matches.
“In England, anyone who made a mistake didn’t go to the stadium ever again because the law said so and the next day he was sentenced,” Gamez said, citing the British government’s crackdown on violent hooligans.
“Not here, judges are at a disadvantage against lawyers, who have so many ploys that a fan banned from a stadium gets off the next day … the one who went in with a gun.”