In Argentina, fans from the same team fight
The English hooligan problem was at its worst outside Britain, when fans went to international matches abroad. Violence in Argentine football, by contrast, has reached a point in recent years where it is rarely even a confrontation between the hardcore fans of rival teams.
Now, factions who support the same team fight each other. At stake is control over a number of money-spinning ventures linked to their clubs.
It might appear paradoxical at first that just when Huracan have produced a stylish attacking team which nearly won the Argentine league title, their hardcore fans should to go war with each other.
Two men died and a number of people were injured in recent fighting in the Buenos Aires barrio of Parque de los Patricios just hours after the team’s 3-0 home win over Arsenal had put them a point clear at the top of the standings. (They then unluckily lost the title decider to Velez Sarsfield.)
Fighting between groups from the same set of fans has nothing to do with on-field performance, except that a more succesful team generates higher crowds and therefore more business for the gangs (control of parking in the area, the sale of food, resale of match tickets and even drugs.)
La Zavaleta, a faction that had been marginalised a few years ago and kept quiet while Huracan languished in the National B championship (second tier), wanted a piece of the action but the powerful Jose C Paz and El Pueblito groups were reluctant to let go and violence ensued.
The government and the Argentine Football Association via its president Julio Grondona, tried to argue that the killings had nothing to do with football because they occurred far from the ground and were committed by criminals who don’t care about the game.
They are constantly criticised by the media and by organisations representing victims of football violence for not taking preventative measures.
Thugs seem able to carry all kinds of illegal items into grounds under the very eyes of the police.
Unusally, the Jose C Paz faction posted an apology for the violence on a website although it went on to say La Zavaleta needed to be taught a lesson.
The lesson clubs never seem to learn is that as long as they give favours to hardcore fans and allow them to exercise power in and around the clubs, the violence will not go away.
PHOTO: River Plate fans are arrested by the Argentine police near the Monumental stadium before their Argentine First division soccer match against Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires September 9, 2007. They were arrested following a fight between two different River Plate fan factions. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci