Away support banned in Argentina as fan dies

Not so long ago I wrote about the crowd trouble and violence that marred a River Plate versus Boca Juniors match and whether Argentine football was suffering as a result of the action of certain ‘fans’. Now it would seem that my feelings at the time have been confirmed with the terrible news that a fan was killed on Monday at the Estudiantes versus Lanus league game. What repercussions are we likely to see in response to the latest tragic event to occur?


For once, the action has been swift and decisive from the Argentine FA (AFA) as they announced a complete ban on away fans for all matches for the foreseeable future, until the issues surrounding the violence are resolved. Buenos Aires authorities had already decided that they were tired of sending thousands of police officers to patrol league matches every week to prevent rival fans from clashing before and after kick-off. They had come to a decision that their duty should be to protect the public, not to referee two groups of aggressive and highly charged hooligans attacking each other. Consequently, they had imposed their own ban that applied across the capital city before the AFA and the government intervened to apply the restriction nationally. 

The killing on Monday of Javier Gerez was not at the hands of a rival fan but from a rubber bullet fired by a police officer. The 42-year-old Lanus fan was involved in fighting outside the ground when he was struck and several officers are under investigation for what is being claimed as police brutality.

A shocking statistic is that since 1924 there have been over 250 football related deaths in Argentina and the situation seems to be getting worse. Economic crisis and the day to day difficulties currently experienced by thousands of Argentines seem to have forced certain groups of hard-core fans to react violently against one another. Even though it is likely that their aggression and resentment is towards an ineffective government, certain individuals are only capable of expressing their dissatisfaction by venting their anger at football matches and they use this as a way of releasing tension. 

Many critics claim that the clubs themselves are responsible, as they have been too lenient and allowed organised gangs to infiltrate their hierarchy. By calling themselves a supporters group they appear on the surface to be nothing more than a dedicated collection of fans, but the reality is very different. They demand money in return for supporting the club and are given the authority to control the sale of merchandise and other financially lucrative aspects, such as the sale of parking spaces on match days.

Whilst the away fan ban is going to hopefully reduce the number of violent incidents at football matches, it is only a short term remedy for what is a much bigger social problem. What can be done to tackle the root cause and can Argentina take on board anything from the hard lessons learned in English football during the 1980’s if they are to stop the rise of hooliganism?