Regarding ‘barrabravas’, ultras and the rest

Over the course of today and tomorrow, Madrid will be sprucing itself up and getting ready to receive thousands of River and Boca fans, for whom, a set of messy circumstances have led to tomorrow’s return leg – the most important game during their 100-year rivalry, to be played here. They will be welcomed with open arms. For local football fans, it’s a real treat. They’ll be bringing us one of world football's most renowned derbies in the most prestigious version possible – a Copa Libertadores final. But what is seen here as a moment to savour and celebrate, is viewed over in Argentina as a failure – and some feel aggrieved at having something so intrinsically theirs as the Superclásico taken from them. They feel humiliated – in particular, the 66,000 River fans who filled the Monumental without causing trouble to anyone only for the match to be called off at the last minute.

Too many concessions

Their disappointment merits our sympathy and obliges us to do everything possible to make sure it all turns out well, and by the looks of things, that’s happening. Let’s hope it all goes off well and without incident as that would be seen as the definitive catharsis on the issue of Argentina’s barras bravas. For years they have been afforded a lot of leniency. Clubs use them to intimidate the press and players, politicians have given them license to bully rivals in their campaigns, they’ve been given an extreme high profile (at World Cup Mexico 86 they demanded a bonus for having supported the team) as well as continual cushy numbers. All of that has helped to create a monster which has spiralled out of control.

Time to address the issue

Here, I’m happy to say, things haven’t got to that level. When it comes to football, Argentina has given us so much to be thankful for – Di Stéfano, Maradona and Messi for a start, but they've also taught us what not to do. Luckily, the hooligans issue, which has never been a serious problem, here, is now very much on the wane. Now that Argentina have been deprived of their biggest game because things were taken out of their hands is the moment to be proactive on the ultras issue - and also to encourage Macri in his efforts to do away with the undesirable element in the game once and for all. There are delinquents in all walks of life and in every country, but to bring them all together in football and give them all kinds of privileges is just crazy.