On Monday night, two men were walking down a street in Buenos Aires and were stopped by three others. Without saying a word, the three pulled out guns and opened fire, seeming to aim at one of the pair in particular. Now, that man is lying brain dead in a Buenos Aires hospital. His name is Gonzalo Acro, and he’s one of the leaders of Los Borrachos del Tablón.
Los Borrachos are, for the uninitiated, River Plate’s main barra brava – hooligan gang – and they’ve had an ongoing dispute for some time now regarding which of two main factions should have control of the terrace. Acro, also an employee of River, was one of the six ringleaders banned from home matches following trouble during the Apertura. Nothing has been confirmed as yet – the identities of the gunmen are unknown – but there’s a strong suspicion that the shooting was the latest part of this turf war.
Acro, or Gonzalo as he’s known on the terraces, is the right-hand man of Adrián Rousseau, the leader of the rebel faction of Los Borrachos trying to wrest control of the group from the current incumbents, brothers Alan and William Schlenker. According to Olé, he was shot at on the 7th May outside Rousseau’s house, less than ten blocks from the location of Monday night’s attack. Ubaldo Matera, the man who’d been walking with Acro, was hit in the back but is not in too grave a condition.
The most startling thing about all this is the very thing which makes it hard to predict what the consequences might be (because whether it’s actually the case or, less likely, not, it will certainly be seen as part of the power struggle) is that this attack goes so far beyond the accepted ‘codes’ of the barras bravas. It occured away from the stadium, on a non-match day, and involved firearms (these aren’t unknown but knives are seen as more ‘accepted’ in the barras‘ macho culture).
River president José María Aguilar understandably refused to comment, calling it ‘a judicial matter,’ but did insist that River were still ‘the most secure club in Argentina.’ He perhaps has a point – one of their fans being shot in the street well away from their ground can hardly be blamed on the club – but the fact remains that tonight, a 29-year-old man is fighting for his life in a hospital bed, a doctor having called his situation ‘almost irreversible’. Gonzalo Acro is by no means a wholly innocent bystander, but two questions at least are difficult to avoid: is it really worth it? And how long will it be before serious action is taken to stamp the barras bravas out once and for all?
Update: River held a press conference on Tuesday evening in which a spokesman read the following statement:
‘River Plate asks for total collaboration from everyone who is in some way related to football. ‘Everyone’ means the Minister of the Interior, the Federal Police, the AFA and anyone else who can join in to put an end to violence in football.’
José María Aguilar wasn’t present at the press conference, owing to death threats he recieved in the hours beforehand. River’s match on Sunday against Newell’s has been brought forward to a 14:15 kickoff in an attempt to make policing easier, since it now won’t be getting dark when full-time comes and fans start to leave the stadium.