Animal Farm

The brave new world of Argentine stadium security is up for debate, and the lunatics have made the opening gambit in the race to run the asylum. The ringleaders of barra bravas from twenty-seven clubs right across the country and up and down the divisions met at Platense’s conference venue. Their plan – and this is where it’s difficult to know whether to laugh or cry – is to sign a peace treaty. What do they hope to gain from this? Among other things, a role in the running of stadium security. Barra bravas. Stadium security. Only in Argentina…

The idea is the brainchild of Pablo ‘Bebote‘ Alvarez, the capo of Independiente’s gang, who according to many of his close contacts has experienced something of a road to Damascus moment and is trying to clean up his act. This started a few weeks ago at the clásico de Avellaneda when Independiente’s barra provided security, in conjunction with a local NGO, at the home end – I wrote about it here for Pitch Invasion recently.

More than 100 barras gathered at the social venue of C.A. Platense, whose president Adolfo Donzelli told reporters; ‘I’ve got an allergy to barras. But they asked us if they could have the venue, explained what they were going to use it for and it seemed only correct to say yes. I hope they’re not going to deceive us.’ The hooligans’ plan is far-reaching and, if it’s meant in earnest and actually does get stuck to, would go a long way to wiping out violence in and around the stadia of Argentina.

The gangs are to sign an anti-violence pact (to be witnessed by police and representatives of the sporting security forces) in an effort to convince the AFA and league organisers to lift the current ban on away fans in the divisions below Primera A, along with the restriction which only permits top-flight sides to open 50% of their visitors’ stand. The idea includes a plan to reintegrate barras to the status of – and this is the tragi-comic part – voluntary security forces, along the lines of the experiment with Independiente’s gang against Racing.

As well as Bebote, there were also well-known barras present from Gimnasia de Jujuy, Tigre, Estudiantes, Huracán, Banfield and Lanús. The real eyebrow-raiser was the presence of the heads of two barras from the Rosario clubs, who’ve played a major part in roadblocks leading to fights whilst the hooligans linked to BA-based clubs travel to away matches in other cities in recent years: those of Rosario Central and Newell’s Old Boys. A number of attendees have current court cases ongoing, quite aside from the fact that practically all of them have very murky pasts. So are they to be trusted?

Barras from River were absent, whilst Boca capo Mauro Martín had promised to attend, but has been detained by his court case and wasn’t able to. Barras from San Lorenzo, Vélez and Racing were all also absent, although the latter sent note of their agreement with the principles of the meeting.

What’s in it for the barras if they do go straight? Well for one thing, a pact against violence doesn’t say anything to stop them continuing to trade drugs and weapons, curry political favour and exert pressure on club heirarchies for slices of the transfer kitty and free tickets. In fact in many ways, it’ll make all of those things easier to get away with. Issues of trust and motivation are still unclear, but with the aim being to get the agreement signed and legally witnessed before the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, we may be finding out very soon just how ridiculous the situation can get…

4 thoughts on “Animal Farm

  1. Ha Ha ! Maybe I am the only one here old enough to remember what happened when the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels for “security” at Altamont.

  2. Nice parallel, Johnny. It really is a scenario of the inmates trying to run the asylum.

    My only question is why don’t the actual clubs get together and hold meetings like this? If the barras are sincere in trying to stamp out the violence why aren’t the clubs taking the lead?

    Sam, I totally agree that anything that the Central and Newell’s barras are involved in cannot come to anything good…

  3. If the barras weren’t so devoted to criminal activities of all sorts, this might actually have a chance of working (especially if they had some sort of revenue sharing system for protection money, perhaps Supporters Direct can advise them).

    Unfortunately, the leaders are almost all pretty irredeemable bad guys, and the initiative therefore seems more like something thought up after watching Scarface on (pirated) DVD for the 27th time.

  4. Exactly, Ursus. It’s very difficult to supress the suspicion that all this will do – and let’s pretend for a minute that the anti-violence pact is genuinely heartfelt and really will work, which in itself is a huge leap of faith and the imagination – is help the barras further entrench their ‘business’ in the other areas they operate in. After all, fighting doesn’t bring them money or political power, but their positions within some of the clubs, and the black market trading they engage in, certainly do.

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