The colours, the endless noise, the banners and the bouncing. These are just some of the aspects which make football in Argentina different from the sanistised and commercial version of the game we're forced to endure in the UK. Anyone who watched the unintentionally hilarious Danny Dyer on his Real Football Factories International exposes can see why being a spectator at these games is such an exhilerating experience.
The problem is that on fairly regular basis some fans turn their passion into violence. Most clubs have at least one faction of Barras Bravas (BB), deaths, games abandoned and players intimidated have all helped cement their fearsome reputations. In the UK the Government claims it has sucessfully cured the English Disease. By using methods such as all seater stadiums, extortionately priced tickets and CCTV cameras at our every turn; our grounds are a lot safer (and many would say less atmospheric) than they were 25 years ago.
Changing the dynamic of the football going public isn't an option in Argentina. For all the negatives many of the BB are an integral part of their club and community. Self-policing is the latest method to be tried by the authorities in an effort to bring them into line. Earlier this month an anti-violence summit was attended by more than 160 BB members representing numerous clubs and gangs (Boca, River, San Lorenzo & Velez did not go). Contrary to what you may have feared the meeting passed off peacefully , quite an achievement given the records of those attending. Central to the whole plan is the effort to clean up the gangs with ID schemes and a zero tolerance policy to those who have commited offences. A ten point manifesto has been drawn-up including some of the following:
Preventing fireworks being smuggled into grounds and assisting with the confiscation of those that have.
Informing the authorities of any pre-planned fights, where, when who etc.
Not exhibiting 'trophies of war' at matches. I guess this means not burning other teams flags, shirts etc which have been captured.
Giving the ball back when it goes into the stands.
It's also the responsibility of the BB's to make fans aware that getting a match abandoned will not be tolerated!!!
The press are sceptical about the effectiveness of this new approach and are taking a wait and see attitude. For now though, security within stadia will remain the responsibility of the BB's. If the violence can be reigned in whilst preserving the fantastic atmosphere Argentine domestic football will have found a winning formula.
Check out The Real Football Factories International - Argentina
Stills of various fans set to a rather nice song: