When you hit the six-month mark in South America, your friends and acquaintances start reminding you that it’s high time you picked a football team. So after months of delicately avoiding the Boca-River debate, and saying ‘The footage is unclear’ every time someone mentions a certain goal, you start making a trek to the stadiums to see what’s out there.
And that’s when you learn a whole new set of survival skills. Wearing appropriate colours. Splurging for the stand in which people don’t usually pee on the walls. Making sure you have exactly enough money for a hot dog and your bus fare back home, and not a cent more. Football stadiums in Argentina are no place for a lady.
While football violence in England is at an all time low, it rages on in South America. Hidden behind the spirited cheering, banners, drums, flares and numerous songs about ‘huevos’ are the Barra Brava, the ultraviolent fans who are technically described as ‘organised supporters’ but unofficially take charge of every football related crime you can list. Recent highlights include train station shootouts, bus hijackings and players being forced to carry guns. The violence seems to be generally accepted here, and is even thought to give the game more character. But with the World Cup approaching, Brazil has decided to clean up its football stadiums.
FIFA is currently considering a proposal to hand out free or discounted World Cup tickets to people who surrender their guns to the Brazilian authorities. Representatives of the Desarma Brazil feel that the country’s love of football, could really boost the disarmament drive, and are pushing for the proposal. While it has attracted quite a bit of criticism from people claiming that it rewards crime and gun ownership, FIFA secretary general, Jérôme Valcke recently summed it up best by saying, "I think that unfortunately there are so many guns in Brazil that we wouldn't have a sufficient number of tickets."