In the news this past couple of days, we've heard of about 10 Argentine hooligans being deported back to Argentina before the start of the World Cup. I'm glad for the South African authorities showing that they have a firm grasp of security leading up to Friday's kick-off, and that the inter-agency cooperation between countries was a serious one.
But why are we only hearing of Argentine hooligans? Do we produce the most dangerous hooligans? What about the famous English firms, Brazilians and so on?
A brief recount of the Argentinean case, which I've been following in the local papers and is rooted in politics and power plays:
- Last year, as Argentina was nearing the final stages of the qualifying rounds, the leaders of every local club's fan club (or "barra brava" as they are known locally, a term that enjoys violent connotations due to their constant power struggles and rising death tolls), got together to discuss plans to travel to South Africa and decided to unite under the "United Argentinean Fan Club" thus creating a legitimate association that could sit at a table with bigger political forces to negotiate travel and game tickets to the World Cup.
- This meeting also happened around the time when the Federal government decided to step in and terminate a multi-million legitimate contract between the Argentine Football Association (the ruling organization on everything soccer in Argentina) and it's television licensee, TYC Sports (which is owned by the biggest media group in the country, which openly opposed the Government on several fronts and are involved in a political battle).
- The Government took over the contract and gave AFA a lot more dinero for the television and media rights of the Primera Division and made every game available on public television, thus gaining some political capital, which in a cynical society like Argentina didn't get them very far. They also thought they would enjoy some peace and tranquility from the violent fan clubs, now "united."
- Jump to June 2010 and the Argentine team travels to Pretoria, South Africa in preparation for the start of the World Cup, and coincidentally (ok, this coincidence is still up in the air) shares the plane with a large group of these violent fans, who spend most the flight chanting and parading themselves on the isles (nothing really wrong with that in my opinion).
- Later a group of these fans approached the Argentine team's bunker to solicit some "misplaced luggage" and asks directly for the Argentine team's manager Carlos Salvador Bilardo (1986's winning team's coach and Maradona's right hand man). In later encounters they also demanded tickets for the upcoming games.
- During these past couple of days, Maradona said he had no ties to these "characters," but the local press speculates that the relationships between Maradona, Bilardo and the "Fans" (for lack of a more precise English word) in question, was started during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and that it's common knowledge that Argentine club managers have strong ties to these violent groups (something I've read/heard about far too many times).
This is still playing out... but I wonder if this is normal in any other country.
I would love to know about other countries and their "fans."