March 9, 2014
Courts and hooligans
For the Herald
A relationship which makes you think
Buenos Aires prosecutor Luis Cevasco, who has been working on security for 18 years — especially in relation to soccer hooligans — says there is a double-faced attitude about this matter: while club officials and fans say they want to get rid of hooligans, it often does not look that way. So he suggests that they should pull off their masks and accept that soccer does not want to change anything. It certainly looks as if the courts agree. Let's look at some examples, not in order.
In 2007, a River Plate hooligan gang member, Gonzalo Acro, was murdered by a hooligan of another faction. The case eventually went to trial and in 2011 five men were given prison sentences of various length, including life for gang leaders Alan and William Schlenker as instigators of the crime. The brothers, no doubt with a better lawyer, remained free until their sentence was to be confirmed the following year. But 2012 is almost over and there has been no confirmation. Curiously, in 2008, gang member Ariel Luna (who had escaped to Italy) confessed to the crime and was jailed. His lawyer said he did this for 600.000 pesos — who offered it? — but was never paid.
In 2010, when Daniel Passarella took over as president of River Plate, he found finances in a mess. An audit showed what can only be described as financial crimes committed by the previous committee under José María Aguilar in everything from player transfers, building costs, hooligan payments, etc. Several court cases against Aguilar have not prospered. He must have good lawyers. But the latest makes you wonder whether to laugh or to cry. The club claims almost four million dollars from Aguilar from the sale of Fernando Belluschi. A judge would not accept the claim, because, it was reported, he said there were some irregularities with the club museum (which also happened under Aguilar's committee). But what has one to do with the other?
Strange (is it?) that Argentine Football Association (AFA) chief Julio Grondona praised Aguilar, saying "he was a pillar for us as expert in sports law". But talking of the AFA, in 2009 it was being investigated for giving 400 tickets to hooligans for a match of the last World Cup's qualifying campaign while fans with legitimate tickets could not get into the packed Rosario stadium. There has been no court decision. In 2007, a court ruled that the AFA was responsible for hooligan violence in soccer, but in 2011 another court said it was not.
In 2011, when River Plate was relegated in the relegation playoff against Belgrano, referee Sergio Pezzotta was threatened at half-time by a gang of River Plate hooligans to let the club win. There were strong rumours that members of the club committee had sent them, but the judge quickly let them off without even asking them to testify. The investigation against the hooligans still continues — although it seems to be at a standstill — although they had all been photographed and one gave evidence that committee members had sent them.
In 2002, a bloody fight between Boca Juniors and Chacarita Juniors hooligans in Boca's stadium during a friendly resulted in a court case which is still not over.
Boca Juniors gang leader at the time, Rafael Di Zeo did go to prison for a time, but he has a series of court cases against him from which he always gets off free, which is also the case with Mauro Martín, the leader of another faction.
In December last year, a police precinct chief was sent to trial for the first time for his connection with the Boca Juniors hooligans, and last June a prosecutor proved the connection of five high-ranking police officers with the gang, but there is no news of any of the trials having taken place. It was also announced that members of the Boca Juniors committee would go to trial for their connection with the hooligans, but this never happened either.
In 2002, the Racing hooligan gang killed an Independiente hooligan in fighting prior to the Avellaneda derby between the two teams. Eight years later they were finally sent to trial which could cost them up to 25 years in prison. Two went to prison for five years, but stayed in for much less.
In 2004, All Boys hooligans attacked Atlanta fans, injuring 20, two seriously. Eight years later the attackers were sent to trial, but by then witnesses and proof had disappeared.
There are numerous other such cases and also where police detain hooligans for fighting or carrying firearms without a permit, etc., but let them go the next day, sometimes when their lawyers turn up. It all brings to mind the case of a poor youngster in Córdoba several years ago who was sent to jail for stealing a loaf of bread, but his problem was that he was not a hooligan.
ARGENTINA v BRAZIL
The suspension of last week’s soccer classic between Argentina and Brazil in Resistencia due to a power failure was bad enough, showing once again the lack of maintenance of stadiums here. But the arrangements for the return of money for the quite expensive tickets, which started only yesterday (a week later) is no improvement. Refund for tickets bought via credit card will only start on October 25 (three weeks later). Somebody is gaining bank interest for a considerable amount of money.
Worse still is that to collect the refund, the owner of the ticket will have to present himself personally with his DNI document and a photocopy of same at the stadium in Resistencia or the agency of the Lotería Chaqueña where the ticket was brought. This seems quite unnecessary and what about the people who travelled from outside Chaco to see the match and may not be able to or find it not worthwhile to make the journey again. This will mean more money left for the organizers who have done good business from a match which was never played.