If the AFA thought they had problems with crowd control in the top flight for the last few seasons, they can’t have been happy bunnies on Monday. Chacarita Juniors, whose previous spells in Primera A have been most notable for very badly behaved crowds, most infamously (and tragically) when playing Boca Juniors, are back in the top flight next season after five years away. A former champion returns to the top table, but how long before we’re wishing they hadn’t?
Away to Platense in front of empty stands in Gimnasia La Plata’s ground, Chacarita scored the only goal of the match with just one minute left on the clock, a strong left-footed finish from Mariano Echeverría giving them the win they needed to confirm promotion behind champions Atlético Tucumán with two matches remaining. The stadium might have been empty, but the team were celebrating loudly enough at the final whistle.
The season started poorly for Chacarita, who after the disappointment of just missing out on promotion this time last year only won five matches out of their first 14. That led to the departure of Pedro Damián Monzón as manager to be replaced by Ricardo Zielinski, who promptly embarked on a run of six straight wins and went ten matches before tasting defeat, winning 14 and drawing four of his twenty-two matches in charge.
Chacarita have some happy memories of the Primera A, having claimed the 1969 Torneo Metropolitano, but their most recent spell in the top flight is most widely remembered for a running (and pre-arranged) battle between their barra brava, La Banda de San Martín (named after the partido of Gran Buenos Aires the club hail from) and Boca Juniors’ La Doce.
In 1999 Chacarita played Boca in a pre-Clausura friendly, and a battle ensued between the fans, after which several people were jailed for six months. In 2003, a pre-arranged ‘revenge’ meeting took place prior to a league match between the two sides which resulted in sixty injured and none detained by police. Only in the last couple of years have Rafael Di Zeo and others who at the time were high up in La Doce been sentenced to jail time for their part in the riots. Those fights with Boca’s ‘fans’ were only one symptom though: there were numerous fights with the police and other barras.
Chacarita are a club with a lot more to their history than just these clashes, and they’re hardly unique in Argentine football for having a minority of fans who like to try and stab others, but with the current attitude surrounding the Argentine game – one in which officialdom wants to be seen as doing something positive, even if they’re not really – the security forces and the AFA can hardly have been wishing Chacarita would win promotion. Let’s hope they can surprise us…