Football, or soccer as it’s called in North America, has been linked to violence in and out of the fields all over the world.
Toronto FC is the soccer team representing the city of Toronto. It plays in the Major League Soccer (North American league). Contrary to what happens in other parts of the world, Toronto seems to be an exception to the passion and violence often seen in other countries. Is violence intrinsic to soccer? If so, why isn’t it causing violence in our soccer stadiums?
Some suggest the violence does not come from the stands to the field, but the other way around. Violent soccer players may start the fire in fans, who then turn against the other team’s followers or even against each other.
Argentinians are one of the most passionate soccer fans in the world. And also, some of the most violent. It is said that “La 12,” Boca Juniors’ main radical group of followers, are the biggest and most violent in the world.
“The problem of violence is linked to a pursue of money and power,” says Diego Diaz, a former member of a radical soccer hooligan group in Argentina called “Borrachos por Racing de Cordoba.”
Diaz currently lives in Toronto and attends TFC’s games regularly but confirms Canadian stadiums seem immune to the violence he has seen in other parts of the world where he has attended soccer games.
England’s soccer followers are known as “Hooligans.” They are famous for being violent, but only internationally. Ironically, many, if not all, soccer fields in England do not have a big wire fence that would prevent followers from invading the field. Of course, we have seen naked guys running through the middle of the field during a game, or runaway dogs, but not frequent violent acts. Germany has a similar scenario. Yet, these two countries’ passion for the beautiful game does not translate into more acts of violence. Why is that?
The Argentinean equivalent of Hooligans are called “barra brava.”
“In Argentina, the ‘barra brava’ even determines who the coach is going to be,” says Diaz.
Toronto has a large Argentinean population, formed in part by people coming from the poor neighborhoods in Argentina. Every time Canada faces other countries in Canadian soil, you can be sure there will be Argentinean flags around, supporting their new home (unless Canada is facing Argentina, that is), yet they have not transferred the violent environment they saw in Argentinean soccer fields into Canadian ones.
Diaz says that “barra bravas” are supporters for hire. They don’t care so much about the team or political party they seem to support but rather about the money they can get from selling the tickets they get for free, charging for parking around or inside the stadiums on gaming day, selling food inside the stadiums, and other perks provided by the team’s administration. Politicians use them to get a lot of people into their public meetings, giving the impression of a lot of people supporting their agenda or being against the other party’s agenda. It seems to be all about the money.
One key to this issue is corruption within the political system. Corrupt politicians use “barra bravas,” who in turn become friends of those same politicians in their power posts, giving way to impunity.
However, it is undeniable that all around the world, violence seems to be tightly linked to soccer. From players punching each other during official games, to domestic violence perpetrated by soccer players, to fights between factions of supporters of the same team or against other team’s supporters, or coaches punching soccer players… The list goes on.
The violence linked to soccer has increased so much in some countries that, for instance, last month Greece cancelled it’s soccer league indefinitely.
What do you think is preventing violence in soccer from inundating our stadiums as it has happened in other countries and other leagues? Please leave us your comments!