The majority of barra members are from working class background and come from poor neighbourhoods.
They finance their control over the club by the resale of tickets, drugs and often use of violence and threats towards board members. Argentina is widely regarded as having the most dangerous hooligans on the planet.
One of the ‘big five’ sides in Argentina is Independiente. Their barra, La Barra del Rojo, ‘The Red Crew’, are known as the largest and most dangerous group of organised supporters in the country.
This was more evident than ever on Wednesday night at Estadio Libertadores de América when Independiente took on Belgrano. Following the half time interval, a firecracker was thrown from the home stand. The ‘bomba’ landed and exploded next to Juan Olave, the Belgrano goalkeeper. The Belgrano stopper immediately dropped to the floor, holding his ear. Lying inside the 6-yard box clutching the side of his face, Olave was set for lengthy treatment. However, before the medical team could get to his aid, another firecracker landed inside the box and exploded near his sprawled carcass, which resulted in him leaping to his feet and sprinting to the halfway line to receive treatment.
The game was abandoned and suspended with the score at 0-0.
Video evidence suggests that these firecrackers were thrown onto the pitch by several 14-year-olds, forced and probably paid to do so by the barra leader, Pablo ‘Bebote’ Alvarez.
There was a time the barras would wear masks to hide their identity, now the thugs pay teenagers to carry out their crimes.
Following the match, Independiente President Javier Cantero, a devotee to remove all barra rights, was direct and demanded action to be taken:
“It’s a sad night – probably the saddest. I want to apologise to Belgrano, and also to my players and the club members. Fortunately we have identified all of them – they’re filmed. If they wanted to pick a fight with us, they just picked it. Police have identified them, have them filmed and are going after them. They didn’t intervened to avoid a massacre”
Cantero has worked tirelessly to eradicate hooligans from his club since being announced as President. This has obviously not been welcomed by La Barra del Rojo, who have continually rebelled against Cantero’s wishes and demands. Cantero continued, “We knew at any moment this could happen, because they were earning thousands of dollars from the club. They won’t give up easily.
“These are Independiente fans? They threw a firecracker at (Manager) Americo Gallego! At Gallego! Someone who’s giving everything for us”
“This is not Cantero against the barra, it’s Independiente against the barra.”
Today, the Independiente club president met with Cabinet Chief Abal Medina and Security Secretary Sergio Berni at the Governemt house. Following the meeting, Cantero announced the government had pledged ‘full support’ to his cause and urged his to keep expelling hooligans from the club.
Two ultras have now been arrested and it has been confirmed that one of them is a ‘socio’, a club member, and part of La Barra del Rojo. Cantero went on to thank the Government for their help in supporting his ongoing cause, “it seemed as if the hooligans couldn’t be eliminated but Independiente made it and we couldn’t have done it without the government’s support.”
The Belgrano fixture is still yet to be rearranged and following these incidents, El Rojo are likely to either be forced to play their games in a different stadium or behind closed doors. Additionally, Independiente still need to play their game from week 12 against Tigre, which was called off due to the heavy rain in Avellaneda. This may result in Independiente having to complete their Torneo Inicial fixtures in the second half of the season, in the Torneo Final.
It is still unclear what the recuperations of Wednesday’s actions will be on both the club and the barras. Whatever the result, Cantero will undoubtedly continue to work to provide a fairer and safer club for present and future generations.
Watch the Olave incident here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MbWUZP6yfU
Thanks to Samuel (@ecanalla) and Buenos Aires Herald for translating Javier Cantero’s quotes.