José Gastón Mendoza, a member of Colón’s barra brava, has been sentenced to six years imprisonment for attempting, in February 2006, to murder a fellow fan during a match against River Plate. The Santa Fe courts handed down the sentence on Friday, and hope it will act as a warning to other barras in both the province (Rosario, with its two clubs Central and Newell’s, is also located in Santa Fe Province) and the country as a whole that patience on the part of officials towards the hooligans is finally running out.
The attack, pictured left, came as Mendoza, nicknamed ‘Came Ríos‘, was being followed by the police in Colón’s stadium. For the match against River, on the 19th February 2006, the stadium was near capacity and Mendoza moved through without much comment. Then, approaching another fan in the club members’ section of the main stand, he pulled out a 17-centimetre blade and attacked, cutting the man on his back, chest, both arms and his right wrist. Mendoza’s intent, it has been commented perhaps not entirely ironically, was to bring honour to the ‘graveyard’ part of the stadium’s nickname, ‘The Elephants’ Graveyard’, though why he attacked a fellow Colón fan rather than a travelling supporter isn’t made clear.
With the attack (pictured left) still taking place, the other members of the barra got to Mendoza and pulled him away, trying to calm him down, and under cover of rushing the crowd to the bottom of the stand, changed clothes and helped Mendoza escape. What they hadn’t bargained with, of course, was that the match was being televised, and the whole thing was caught on camera for the authorities to rewind and watch over and again at their leisure. The trial began two days later.
Twenty-two months to the day after it started, then, Mendoza’s trial has ended and he’s been sentenced. Exactly how likely this is to put others off, given the amount of time taken to reach a decision, is debatable. Some form of justice has, however, eventually been done. As far as Argentine authorities dealing with football hooliganism goes, we can only hope 2007 is ending as 2008 will go on.