Argentina has to be the greatest country in the world in which to be a football fan. 'Free' football for all on the TV courtesy of the Government and now all expenses paid trips to South Africa to cheer on the national team at the World Cup. To be fair the trips aren't being provided condition-free, the Government (who initially denied any involvement whatsoever) will only give them away if the Barras behave; yes the Barras will be going on an African tour. Upto 280 places have been promised in exchange for good behaviour inside stadiums in the run-up to the World Cup and also support in the 2011 elections.
An umbrella group has been formed HUA - Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas which presently consists of gang members from Colón Santa Fe, Gimnasia y Esgrima LP, Chacarita Juniors , Argentinos Juniors, Independiente, Huracán, Veléz, Lanús, Tigre and Rosario Central. Banners bearing the HUA slogan and references to the Kirchner regime have been appearing at matches over the last month. At first the HUA and their leader Marcelo Mallo advertised themselves as a force for social change, purely an anti-violence movement but links to the Government have become increasingly difficult to cover up.
As alien as this agreement is to most of us, many questions arise as to how it'll work in practice. The barras have to behave inside the grounds - which gives plenty of scope for clashes away from stadiums. When was the last time large scale disorder happened in the stands? Places for South Africa are limited, expect disagreements about who gets a ticket and who doesn't - if more gangs join the HUA this problem will merely increase. A recent meeting of the HUA Capos resembled a scene from a Mob film. No doubt the unlucky ones will be pacified by wads of cash. Both La Doce of Boca Juniors and Los Borrachos del Tablon of River are big enough to book their own to tickets to the World Cup, no help required.
The promised anti-violence measures (http://realfootballargentina.blogspot.com/2009/03/hi-tech-solution.html) are no use whatsoever in isolation. The HUA initiative is once again legitimising the violent minority, as long as links between the hooligans, politicians and clubs remain in place the problem will persist. The suits believe that getting into bed with the Barras will somehow be of benefit, otherwise why would they do it?
In England the Government collected the passports from the hooligans, in Argentina the hooligans collect tickets and travel guides from the Government.