Guardian, Thursday, December 4, 2008 1:15 PM
Officially, the death toll inside Argentine soccer stadiums over the years numbers 185, writes Joel Richards. According to the organization Salvemos al fútbol (Let's Save Football) there have
been 232 deaths. "The official statistics only include incidents that take place inside grounds," said Mónica Nizzardo, a lawyer who works with the group. "They ignore victims in clashes outside
the stadiums, which are crimes that of course have everything to do with football."
Richards catalogues a depressing cyclical pattern of violence in the Argentine game, fueled by
rivalries between clubs such as San Lorenzo and Huracan, whose clasico last weekend had to be played at the neutral Bombonera, home of Boca Juniors, to try and defuse a game where violence and
vandalism have become the norm. Last month a Huracan fan was murdered by San Lorenzo followers, rumored to be revenge for Huracan fans looting and vandalizing San Lorenzo club facilities, then
stealing a huge club flag and burning it.
"Football helps you find moments of happiness," said Huracán coach Ángel Cappa
the week before the game. "The
clásico is a special match for everyone, but football cannot take over everything the way it does in Argentina. There are more important things in life." He joined San Lorenzo coach
Miguel Ángel Russo
and the two clubs' presidents on national TV to appeal for peace. Huracán president Carlos Babington
admitted that he will not take his
children to the game.
After a freak rainstorm caused the game to be abandoned after 16 minutes, the rest of the game was played a few days later, but both games went off without
incident as 1,100 riot police stood by. The leaders of the Huracán and San Lorenzo barra brava had agreed a ceasefire, but Richards says that "nobody expects it to be respected now that the
clásico is finally out of the way." Cappa's appeal that "this is only football, it's not about life and death" has, in Argentina at least, been proven untrue too often to have the ring of
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