Argentina gets tough on soccer violence

Officials announced new measures on Wednesday to bolster security at Argentina’s soccer stadiums, nearly a week after play in the country’s professional leagues was suspended because of fan violence.

The government said it was creating a special prosecutor’s unit to investigate sports-related crimes and would impose better security measures to catch violent fans at stadiums.

Nicolas Becerra, the country’s top prosecutor, was also reportedly considering moves to place judges on standby at stadiums for the speedy processing of detained fans.

But the measures appeared too late to prevent a second weekend without first-division soccer—to the anguish of millions of soccer-crazed Argentines.

Judge Mariano Berges gave no indication on Wednesday whether the new controls on soccer violence would prompt him to let play resume.

Following brawling at an August 31 match between Boca Juniors and Chacarita, Berges stepped in and barred federal police from providing their usual security at stadiums—effectively halting play.

Meanwhile, soccer fans bemoaned prospects of another weekend without soccer, a national pastime bordering on an obsession in a country that has produced such stars as Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta.

“The only one who is happy about not having soccer is my wife,” complained Buenos Aires magazine vendor Alejandro Potenza, who said he would take her to the movies instead on Sunday.

Time is running out for any decision on resuming weekend games: the sixth outing of the Apertura tournament is to begin Friday.

During the August 31 match, Boca Juniors was playing at home against Chacarita when the game was halted in the second half as fans fought in the stands.

Televised footage showed rowdy spectators ripping up metal railings and tossing debris at rival fans. The fighting left dozens of people injured.

Authorities rounded up 58 suspects, and while 14 have since been released, Berges has begun questioning the rest and issuing indictments.

But as his investigation has moved along, fans like Alejandro Suar are already talking of soccer withdrawal.

“Bad, this is really bad not having soccer,” Suar said.

“Something has to be done urgently, but they shouldn’t stop play while they sit down and decide on long-term measures to take.”—Sapa-AP

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