Published on April 19th, 2017 | by Peter Coates0
Supporter death overshadows Argentine football
Once again, the Argentina Primera was making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the death of a supporter in a stadium, the latest in a long line of violent incidents
Argentina’s long history with football violence claimed yet another victim at the weekend and while this may not have been directly linked to the organised ‘barra brava’ groups that have loomed over the national game, the insecurity and mob mentality displayed within Argentina’s stadia have been called into question.
A first clasico in fifteen years between city rivals Belgrano and Talleres should have provided some of the highlights from this weekend’s action with the passion, colour and noise from derby day in Argentina being hard to match.
However, despite the away supporters’ ban that is still in place, the threat of violence has not diminished and on Saturday afternoon in the Estadio Mario Kempes this led to the death of Belgrano supporter Emanuel Balbo.
The footage of Balbo falling from the stands amid a barrage of punches has made news worldwide and the details of the shocking incident are no less harrowing.
According to the victim’s father, Balbo had spotted one of the men responsible for the death of his brother four years earlier in an illegal street race and during the argument, the accused, Oscar Gomez shouted that Balbo was in fact a Talleres fan, sparking the wild scenes in the stand.
Balbo fled as fellow Belgrano supporters punched him and eventually pushed him over a railing and down onto the concrete steps some metres below.
The severe head trauma and cardiac arrest suffered, left Balbo in a coma for more than 24 hours before doctors declared him brain dead and it was announced that he had passed away.
The match ended 1-1 but matters on the pitch have already been forgotten in light of the tragedy.
Four people have been arrested, the Argentine Football Association and Belgrano have condemned the attack and ‘historic’ punishments are being considered against the club but it doesn’t mask the horrific statistics.
NGO Salvemos Al Futbol, who campaign against the violence in Argentine football, have recorded more than 40 deaths since 2013 and with four already in 2017, the measures taken so far by the government, the AFA, the police and the clubs have done little to stem the flow.
Emanuel Balbo is the latest victim and will not be the last until major steps are taken to battle the problem.
On the pitch this weekend and Boca missed a chance after plenty of dropped points near the top
Following the bad news in midweek that Ricardo Centurion faced an extended spell on the sidelines with a knee injury picked up in training, Boca Juniors were able to enjoy much of the weekend, in which all their closest title rivals dropped points.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s league leaders looked to be heading seven points clear at La Bombonera on Sunday evening until Patronato’s 91st-minute equaliser and following the defeat to Talleres a few weeks back and mounting injuries, the title doesn’t look as much of a foregone conclusion as it once did.
The missed opportunity came about after Newell’s and Estudiantes cancelled each other out in a goalless draw bright and early on Saturday morning and San Lorenzo’s slump continued with defeat away to Atletico Tucuman.
While those near the top have faltered, River Plate have steadily been climbing the table and after a somewhat fortunate win over Tigre, Marcelo Gallardo’s side have entered the equation, having looked out of it when the season took its summer break.
The arrival of Ariel Rojas in midfield has rebalanced the side, yielded the best version of Pity Martinez seen in a River shirt and continued producing goals for Sebastian Driussi and Lucas Alario. Two points dropped from the last seven matches has pushed Los Millonarios up into fourth and while they remain six points off Boca, a superclasico lies on the horizon.
So often a colossal let down, the previous clash at the Monumental when Carlos Tevez shone was a thriller and the stage is set for next month’s to be a must-watch.