Violence continues to plague Argentine football


Buenos Aires : The death of a Velez Sarsfield fan and the clashes between Boca Juniors hooligans, all on the same weekend, threatened once again to jeopardise Argentine football that continues to produce talent and violence hand in hand.

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Argentine Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez has expressed frustration over the death of Emanuel Alvarez, 21, who was shot on his way to an away game San Lorenzo-Velez within Buenos Aires. He was travelling in a bus with other Velez supporters.

Beyond this drama, one person was injured and 183 were arrested when Boca Juniors hooligans clashed over internal leadership issues in incidents that reminded many of the situation at arch-rival River Plate only last year.

And the Gimnasia Jujuy-Lanus match was postponed when police in the northwestern Argentine province of Jujuy claimed they could not provide suitable security.

The Argentina government nevertheless insisted on playing down the possibility that there may actually be something wrong with the country’s football structure, even as it continues to produce talents like Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez or Javier Mascherano.

Nothing indicates that Alvarez’s death – at the hands of an unidentified attacker – is “intimately linked” to football violence, Fernandez said.

“It is an isolated case. There is no explanation other than that,” he said Monday.

The minister added that the authorities are offering 100,000 pesos ($31,500) for information on the killer.

A section of the media, however, is demanding that Argentine football competitions be stopped in order to deal with such violence.

Legislator Delia Bisutti, a member of the Sports Commission of the lower house of the Argentine Congress, demanded that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) “suspend football”.

“How many deaths are needed for the show not to go on?” Bisutti wondered.

“It is inadmissible that football goes on as if nothing had happened. We are faced with yet another death on the occasion of a football game, and the state has to determine whether this was the result of a new clash between hooligans. But until that is cleared up football (competitions) should be suspended,” she said.

The organisations Let’s Save Football, and Families of Victims of Violence in Argentine Football (FAVIFA), are planning to demonstrate before AFA headquarters Wednesday.

Suspending competitions is an old, recurring demand in the face of violence. It has been tried before, but it never worked to eradicate the clashes that plague the sport in the football-crazy South American country.

However, the problem is evident, and big. And no one has so far come up with any ideas that look like a solution may be closer.