Around the world, football fans have earned a certain reputation for hooliganism. Brawls, vandalism, stampedes, and even riots have erupted at football matches around the globe, adding to the popular image of over-zealous football fans as violent, aggressive, and lawless – some of them perhaps even more interested in causing havoc than in the football game itself.
Chile has suffered embarrassment lately over an incident that took place during the Spain-Chile match at the World Cup in Brazil. On Wednesday, June 18th, a group of about 200 Chilean fans stormed the Maracana stadium’s media center to see the sold-out game. The fans rushed a security checkpoint and broke into the stadium an hour before kickoff, but 87 were quickly arrested after causing some property damage. This has prompted the Chilean government to blacklist the individuals from traveling abroad for future football games.
The Chilean government’s actions are not unique. Similar incidents in the past have caused governments in other countries to adopt these measures as well, both to protect citizens from the dangers of hooliganism as well as to avoid the national embarrassment caused by fans’ misbehavior. Governments and police forces in countries worldwide have implemented various anti-hooliganism laws and practices, including enforced stadium seating, bans on certain weapon-like objects in stadiums, fences to keep fans off the field, and segregating or even banning fans of opposing teams.
Many authorities keep registers of known or suspected hooligans as well. These individuals may be searched when entering a stadium, may have their travel abilities restricted, and in some cases may be forbidden from football matches altogether. Chile’s FA president Sergio Jadue informed reporters on Wednesday that the Chilean government was taking this hard-line approach to the offenders who stormed the Maracana stadium. Jadue suggested that the 87 people arrested will have restricted privileges not only for traveling to see games abroad but for local games in Chile as well, stating, “We never want to see these images again.”
One woman, a Chilean fan, was injured in the incident at the stadium. The Chilean embassy in Brazil is currently dealing with those arrested, who are required to leave the country within 72 hours. There were also problems back in Chile. In Santiago, the nation’s capital, fans hijacked six buses and took them for joyrides around the city following the country’s 2-0 victory over Spain. Other vehicles were vandalized by over-excited fans as well. FA president Jadue wishes to take more specific measures against this sort of behavior, asserting that “We need to separate ordinary justice from sports justice.”
While suffering some embarrassment over recent events, Chile is hardly alone. The incident at Maracana on June 18th seems relatively minor when compared to large-scale stampedes, riots, and fights which have erupted in the past. Stampedes and riots during and after matches have resulted in injuries and deaths in extreme cases, sometimes prompting local authorities to deploy riot police. In other incidents outside of football matches, prearranged fights between opposing fans have resulted in deaths, and there have even been premeditated attacks and murders committed by hooligans against rival individuals or groups.
Police and other government authorities have implemented new measures against hooliganism, aided by modern technologies such as facial recognition cameras. Despite this, it seems that the culture of violence and vandalism surrounding football clubs is not going to disappear any time soon. While Chile is the latest country to endure the embarrassment of their fans’ misbehavior, they are hardly alone, and it is unlikely this will be the last incident the 2014 World Cup sees.