Feature

Chile: Why soccer has gotten so violent

Going to a soccer game in Chile is a dangerous gamble.

Gastón Meza AcuñaAmérica Economía

 Going to a soccer game in Chile is a dangerous gamble, said Gastón Meza Acuña. You never know when you could get caught in the crossfire between rival hooligan gangs. Chilean fans routinely crack each other’s heads by throwing rocks in the stands, and brawls in and around the stadium can easily sweep up bystanders. And it’s the same ugly scene across Latin America. Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho “had to be escorted out of a stadium recently by his bodyguards, pistols in the air, to intimidate his own team’s thuggish fans.” Why won’t the authorities act? “In my opinion it’s fear: fear of using force that will be perceived as repressive.” Democracy is still young in this part of the world, and “the ghosts of the military dictators of the 1970s and 1980s still haunt us.” That’s why, for example, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet was so reluctant to declare martial law to stem rampant looting after the 2010 earthquake. She and her counterparts across Latin America haven’t recognized that there are times when a democratic government can legitimately exert force—just as England did when it went after its yobs in the 1990s. All it takes is “determination and decisiveness.”

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