Violence rears its ugly head once again in football

Violence rears its ugly head once again in football

A thug, a repeat offender with a prison record stabbed a young man in bar close to the Wanda Metropolitano. Neither of the two men are Atlético club members (the former used to be until he was expelled; the latter has never been a socio). Neither had a ticket for the game, or intended to enter the ground. At most, they might have planned to watch the game on TV in a nearby bar. The assault was not the result of an argument about the game, which hadn’t even kicked off when it happened. Can it be classified as football-related violence? It isn’t, but it comes close, and Atlético are absolutely horrified by it - for them it opens a lot of painful, old wounds such as the tragic events which led to the deaths of Aitor Zabaleta and ‘Jimmy’.

The scene of a mass brawl between rival gangs by the Manzanares River in Madrid, November 2014, which cost the life of Jimmy.

Jimmy's death marked a before and after in Spanish football

What happened with ‘Jimmy’ marked a turning point. Two gangs, Riazor Blues and Frente Atlético, arranged a fight on the morning of the game. The mass brawl claimed a life but afterwards, it was as though an armistice had been called. Today, members of the various, vocal cheerleading groups in the new Gradas de Animación must register with their clubs and provide fingerprints and official identification; those who behave badly are kicked out, those found guilty of derogatory or insulting chants are served fines, nobody can buy a ticket for an away game unless they are a fully signed-up club member so that undesirables cannot enter the ground nor can they travel to away games independently to cause trouble...

Sevilla ultras the Biris turn up at the training ground

Some radical groups going unmonitored

Overall it has worked, but those measures need to be applied constantly and not every club responds in the same way. Depor, clinging to the memory of ‘Jimmy’, initially dragged their feet but now things are much better. At Sevilla, the dualism existing between Castro and Del Nido has hampered any hopes of unity and has allowed the radical Biris group to expand – to the point where they even had the audacity to roll up to the training ground and demand explanations from the players. At Cornellà, we are hearing unacceptable chants every time Barça visit, and now, objects are being thrown onto the pitch. Last week’s incident at Bar Rifle wasn’t hooligan-related violence as such– although maybe it was, as some claim, score-settling relating to the re-opening of the ‘Jimmy’ case. But whatever the reasons behind it, it’s a reminder that we have to remain on alert.