ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: New champions of Argentina are San Lorenzo de Almagro but their dramatic title snatch took second place behind more scandals in a sport dominated by hooligan gangs in this country.
First, came what they call Celebrations of the Day of Boca Juniors – one wonders what the fans had to celebrate – in the centre of Buenos Aires on Thursday which turned into ugly fighting, damage and robbery.
Next police found fireworks and 300 litres of alcohol stored along with the fans’ banners stored underneath the stands for home fans at Vélez Sarsfield – all items not allowed into stadiums – and presumably awaiting the hooligan gang.
The Boca “feast” at the Obelisk by thousands of people left eight injured and only 25 detained. Police had bottles thrown at them, empty of course as the alcohol had already been drunk.
At smaller “celebrations” in Mendoza (city and Rafaela), where the police are tougher, 107 people were detained albeit only for a day or so.
At Vélez Sarsfield, part of the stadium was still closed by the security committee at the time of writing and they were still meeting three hours before the vital match against San Lorenzo to decide. A further inspection yesterday morning had still found fireworks stored under the stands.
Visiting team fans have not been allowed at matches for some time but there is no limit on the ‘invitations’ a club can hand out, a loophole overlooked by the Argentinian football federation (AFA).
Velez issued some 8,000 ‘invitations, mostly to the hooligan gang and which quickly found their way to the black market where they sold at between £50 to £80 on the internet.
The government security committee has now invalidated the ‘invitations’ so the police were left fearing trouble outside the stadium by people who spent a lot of money and could not get in.
Vélez vice-president Julio Baldomar could make a good politician. He says he knows nothing about all this and that the part of the stadium was closed because they had not cleared up the debris left from a Stevie Wonder concert.
So who is to blame?
The usual culprits: the government which sometimes gives the impression of not knowing which country it is ruling and does not enact stricter laws . . . or lenient judges who do not enforce the laws they have . . . or the AFA for not complying with its own rules and regulations.
Do not blame the hooligans. After all it is difficult to teach wild animals. They must be caged . . . perhaps together with club and other officials, such as Baldomar, who encourage them.
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