The match had
to be postponed twice after River fans
attacked the Boca team bus, and
CONMEBOL, the South American
football federation ultimately chose
to relocate the clash to Spain.
But this phenomenon is not confined to just one country in the region,
where several others also wrestle
with the scourge of football-related
thuggery. It’s a blight that has left
hundreds of people dead and which
transcends local rivalries and street
brawls among fans, into organised
crime and corruption facilitated by
“In Argentina, people tend to think
that football violence is monopolised
by the barras bravas,” explained sociologist Diego Murzi.
The member of the Let’s Save
Football (Salvemos al Futbol) charity
sid that “what is overlooked is that in
Argentina there is a football culture
in which violence is [seen as] legitimate, and not just by the hooligans,
but by all the sectors that participate.”
Even so, football violence is fed by
illicit businesses run by hooligan organisations.
In Paraguay, for example, “behind
the violent fans there are drugs, prostitution” and business relations between them and “both sporting and
political leaders,” said Eugenio
Ocampos, an expert with the Paraguayan Public Ministry.
Football hooligans in Argentina are
deeply ingrained in the myriad of
money-making businesses that operate around football matches. Hooligan groups use their criminal connections “to obtain benefits in the resale
of tickets, control of parking, food
stalls within stadiums, participation
in political and union activities, and
activities in the world of crime,” said
In Colombia, hooligan groups are
even involved in money-laundering.
“The fans operate underground
where they can move certain funds
that allow them to keep themselves
going, both with legal and illegal businesses,” said sociologist John Alexander Castro, a football violence expert
at Colombia’s national university.
Those groups organise sports
events, arrange the sale and distribution of replica shirts, and also sell
The phenomenon is slightly different in Brazil, where the “groups
linked to organised crime and drugtrafficking infiltrate organised supporter groups,” said Mauricio Murad,
author of a book on football violence.
He said that the organised criminals are the ones who provoke fans
into committing acts of violence.
Unlike the Argentine groups, these
criminals “have no relation with the
clubs but join the supporters groups
as fans so that they can sell drugs and
The battle to rid football of these
destabilizing elements that sow carnage is hamstrung by police collaboration, said Murzi.
In Argentina, “all the police know
the hooligans, it suits the police for
them to exist. They run a ton of businesses alongside the hooligans.”
Murzi said the police are “contributing more to the problem than helping
to solve it.”
There are some efforts to rein in the
criminal and hooligan groups. But
Murzi isn’t so hopeful for Argentina,
where “the approach is always the
same, thinking that violence is carried out by a group of savages, nutters, idiots or misfits.
“That’s what the press and authorities call it but it’s an over-simplification. The hooligan groups of Boca and
River were decapitated twice and
nothing has changed.”