Among the lowest of the low among the male animal is the rabid sports fan. I keep thinking of one San Francisco Giants fan, Bryan Stow, who was beaten within an inch of his life by Dodgers fans while attending a game here in Los Angeles.
No one beats soccer fans, however, for grotesque violence, of which the Brits are among the worst—to the extent of being banned from some international events. There was even a war caused by dissatisfied fans when the results of a Honduras-El Salvador match did not go according to their desires. (Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski wrote an excellent book on the subject called The Soccer War.)
As much as I like Argentina, I find the recent violence between Boca Juniors fans and Rio Plate players to be truly despicable. After a timeout in a 0-0 tie, Rio Plate players were shot in the eyes with a homemade pepper spray that disabled them. The Argentinean sports federation called the game and endangered Boca’s chances in league play. According to an article in the Toronto Sun:
The rivalry between the two Buenos Aires sides is one of the most heated in the world. It pits Boca, a traditionally working class side from the port area of the city against their more up-town rivals known as the “Millionaires.”
Boca’s Bombonera stadium was a cauldron of drums and the chants of the club’s passionate supporters, who sat just inches from the touchline separated by high wire fences. Few players relish the visit with away supporters barred from attending Argentine matches in a bid to curb violence.
I have been by La Bombonera, “The Chocolate Box,” as Estadio Alberto J. Armando is known, on my last visit to Argentina. Martine and I could have toured the museum, but we knew in advance that La Bombonera is in a tough neighborhood. There is one main tourist street than runs diagonally to the Riachuelo called El Caminito. Every step away from the Caminito raises your chances of being mugged; and the street itself has a huge police presence.
Perhaps rabid attention to sports is something to live for when you have nothing else to live for. But that doesn’t mean I would ever like to attend a major soccer football match anywhere in the world.