As I tucked myself into bed last night with a good book and some warm milk, one of my favorite movies of all times came on the tele - Green Street Hooligans.
I sat up to watch Elijah Wood transform into a Green Street Elite and it got me thinking about the football Hooligans here in Argentina. La Barra Brava.
Barras Bravas (meaning wild or fierce bar or block) as they’re called, started out as mere football fan clubs here in Argentina in the 50s & 60s. However, these amateur fan clubs have since grown into large, corrupt organizations that extend beyond the football pitch and into all aspects of Argentine life, from media to politics.
Over the past few months I’ve read articles, heard stories and even witnessed these crazy bastards first hand at Argentine football stadiums throughout Buenos Aires (Velez, Racing and River) and its wild to think what these guys are into.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see football matches in London as well and I have to say – the hooligans in England don’t hold a candle to the chaos and influence of La Barra Brava. In Argentina, they have a very clear presence at every match and their organization is setup more like the mafia then Tommy Hatcher’s boys from Millwall.
While the majority of Barra Brava members are nothing more than fanatic-thugs, the leaders are much more connected. They’re involved in everything from drugs, ticket and t-shirt sales to player shakedowns and upper management decisions. Argentinian football clubs are not corporations but membership bodies in which the chairmanship is an elected office. At election time, with muscle and a giant mob following their every move, it’s no wonder how many of the Barra Brava higher-ups have moved on to hold city and even national political positions.
“They’re not just a bunch of rowdy, drunk zealots — the barra bravas have a well defined hierarchy and membership running rackets. Many barra bravas, for example, control all the parking within a 10-block radius of a stadium — even public spaces on neighborhood streets — which might earn them up to 60,000 pesos per game day (about $16,000)… and all barra bravas, of course, make out nicely on old-fashioned ticket scalping.
They are abetted by the management of the teams they root for. Team presidents usually deny the relationships — the clubs contacted for this story refused to comment — but they have repeatedly been found schmoozing with barra brava leadership. And nearly all clubs quietly give their barra bravas free ticket allotments, transportation to and from games, and sometimes even cold cash. In March, La Nacion newspaper reported that Boca Juniors’ La Doce gets 2,000 free tickets per match, plus 20,000 pesos each month — about $5,400 — to bring their shenanigans on the road to away games.” - Anil M. @ GlobalPost.com
Although there has been an organization called Salvemos al Futbol — Spanish for “Let’s Save Football” setup to try and eradicate the violence, recent events have made it even harder to control these powerful gangs. Most notably, the political elections coming in 2011 and the 2010 World Cup in South Africa this June. It has been said that certain political parties have commissioned the leaders of the Barra Bravas to ‘influence’ voters and promote their campagins in exchange for funding and support to South Africa.
Because many of the larger clubs have more than one barra brava this has sparked an increase in violence over the last few months as Brava leaders ignite internal turf wars over political influence and funds.
“On Mar. 19, Roberto Caminos, former head of the barra brava of the Newell’s Old Boys club, from the central Argentine city of Rosario, was shot and killed in the doorway of a bar. People close to him said he had commented that he was being trailed by the police.”
“A few days earlier, Juan Bustos, a former leader of the barra brava of Rosario Central – the other popular club from that city – had been killed outside of his home. And Marcos Galarza, a member of the barra brava of the small second division club Defensa y Justicia, was also stabbed to death.” - Marcela V. @ IPS News
With cops and politicians in their back pockets I don’t think these guys are going to be slowed down anytime soon. I just wish one of them would have ruffed up the guy at the door who didn’t let me into the Boca Juniors vs. San Lorenzo match last week.
Here is a list of some of the largest Barra Bravas in Argentina – from Wikipedia.org
- Club Atlético Independiente - Los Diablos Rojos (The Red Devils)
- Club Atlético Boca Juniors - La 12 (The 12)
- Club Atlético River Plate - Los Borrachos del Tablón (The Drunkers of the Stand), La 14 (The 14)
- Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro - La Gloriosa (The Glorious)
- Racing Club de Avellaneda - La Guardia Imperial (The Imperial Guard)
- Club Atlético Rosario Central - Los Guerreros (The Warriors)
- Club Atlético Newell’s Old Boys - La Hinchada Más Popular (The Most Popular Hinchada)
- Club Atlético Colón - Los de Siempre (Those of Always)
- Club Atlético Talleres - La Fiel (The Faithful)
- Club Atlético Belgrano - Los Piratas Celestes de Alberdi (The Light-Blue Pirates of Alberdi)
- Club Atlético Vélez Sársfield - La Pandilla (The Gang)
- Club Ferro Carril Oeste - La Banda 100% Caballito (The 100% Caballito Band)
- Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata - La 22 (The 22)
- Club Atlético Huracán - La Banda de la Quema (The Quema Band)