Public want more action not words
19 January ~ A "rebranding" of the barras bravas supporters' groups is the innovative solution suggested by the president of the Ecuadorian FA (FEF) in order to tackle the violence in football. According to Luis Chiriboga, federation head since 1998, names such as Muerte Blanca (White Death), Mafia Azulgrana (Blue and Red Mafia) and Sur Oscura (Dark South) promote violence when they should be encouraging support for their teams. While he may be right, some Ecuadorians think that the authorities have long been a soft touch on the issue of football violence.
Ecuador is no different to other South American countries, where disorder at matches can appear to be endemic. Figures in the capital Quito show that 51 of the 84 games played between 2012 and September 2013 had violent incidents. On top of that, there have been five deaths in or around the grounds since 2007, when a flare thrown from a barras' stand killed 11-year-old Carlos Cedeño at a derby in Guayaquil.
The boy's death marked a low point in Ecuadorian football but it wasn't the last, and little has been done since. Instead, recent events suggest a step backwards. In August, the ministry of interior withdrew their police from inside stadiums during matches after an officer was thrown into a perimeter ditch by some fans. The minister, José Serrano, accused the FEF and the clubs specifically of not taking "severe, drastic and immediate decisions" over the barras. Suggesting a change of their names might hide the problem, but it's unlikely to solve it.
The fact is that Chiriboga probably doesn't need a solution to stay in power. During his 15 years in charge Ecuador have qualified three times for the World Cup, for which he was personally credited by the country's president, Rafael Correa. Chiriboga doesn't seem to place as much value on recognition from the supporters, whom he holds responsible for the empty stadiums. "There are few good fans, most of them only go to games when their team is on top or playing in derbies," he said to the press in October.
What Ecuador needs is a law punishing the violent fan was the headline of newspaper El Comercio after a visit from Ecuadorian representatives to the biggest five grounds in London two weeks ago. There they were supposed to observe examples of how security is handled in England. Technology, surveillance and control of the fans were the points that impressed the FEF and police representatives the most. Meanwhile, people in Ecuador still expect some action to be taken against violence in football, rather than just words. Antonio Mateo