Barras bravas: Can South America control its fans?

Barras bravas
CR: Youtube

From the only part of the stadium that is fenced off and has barbed wire running along the top, comes the relentless thumping of drums and brass instruments, heard only when the non-stop singing lowers its volume for a moment. Bodies, some shirtless and glistening with the sweat of a hot Colombian evening, some covered with tattoos, but most covered in Deportivo Cali’s green and white colours. Bouncing, thrusting and flailing arms, and nodding heads all moving at the same time and singing loudly, in a remarkable show of choreography and enthusiasm. This was my first experience of a South American football match, and through the barbed wire was my first sight of a Barras Bravas (the South American version of football hooligans).

The now infamous scenes that took place at half time during the second leg of Boca Juniors vs River Plate on 14th May shocked football fans all over, and showed explicitly the violent potential of these organized groups. How could fans have access to the players to the point of attacking them? I am from the UK, a culture of high security football stadiums where misdemeanors are punished severely. So, to me, these actions seem truly remarkable.

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