Jon Sistiaga’s documentary on the Barra Bravas


If you have about an hour, please watch. In Argentina, football is not a way of life, it is life and death. The Barra Bravas are the hooligans that have organized themselves into a mafia force that is aided and abetted by police corruption and enjoys political patronage to partake of the spoils of Argentina’s multi million dollar football business. If there is money to be made, the Barra Bravas are there, from demanding commissions on transfer fees to extorting car parking fees to drug dealing.
Many die violent deaths as rival gangs engage in turf wars. Some are part of the gangs, most are just innocent fans. The fact is justice comes slowly if at all.
In the documentary you see Alejandro Flores, a barra brava of Club Atletico Excursionistas, high on alcohol and crack, wielding his swords. He was murdered a week later. Jon Sistiaga then takes us into the world of the barra bravas of Atlanta where their supporters are bussed in from predetermined secret locations and rely on elaborate codes to conduct business. They get in free while the rest of the fans pay inflated fees.
Ricardo Pavone, or El Gordo, a honcho of San Telmo, a third division club drawing a loaded gun and letting loose a round in his interview. The club closed down its own stadium for security reasons after Pavone and his barras threw Molotov cocktails and now plays its matches in a different location. Pavone was later arrested as video footage showed him exhorting Independiente barra bravas to throw firecrackers into the pitch against their opponents Belgrano. As he explains. ” A barra brava can ruin the show. Provoke incidents causing suspension of the game.” It’s a nice power trip.
There is footage of the ongoing battle of supremacy between leaders of two rival factions of La Doce as Boca’s barra bravas are called which has implications for the upcoming club presidential elections.
Are these barra bravas real fans? Not so. Sistiaga concludes, “I have not found a single hooligan who is able to tell me the complete lineup of his team.”
Unlike the simpler minded British hooligans of the 80′s, the barra bravas look onto the game for their livelihood and have cultivated entrenched financial and political interests which are inseparable from that of the club. This problem is going to be harder to eradicate. A glimpse of what lies in store when Sistiaga and his cameraman are accosted by the barra bravas of Club Racing.

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