Football in Argentina: Is it safe to go to see a live match?

Recent reports might’ve made some fans doubt about match-going, so here’s everything you need to know to enjoy some fútbol

Argentine football is admired around the world. From the Messi or Maradona debate to the Superclásico, watching a ball roll across the grass is a can’t-miss part of any visit to Buenos Aires. But with incidents like the suspension of the 2018 Copa Libertadores — where River fans attacked the Boca bus, hurting the players —, reports of organized gangs attacking players, and brawls between fans and the police, you might be wondering: Is it safe to go to a football match in Argentina? 

Safety in Argentine football

The first thing to note is that incidents and altercations get a lot more attention than games that go according to plan. As with all large public events, attendants’ discretion is advised given that flare-ups and heated arguments can happen, but most games end without incident.

It’s important to understand which section of the stadium you’re visiting.

The stadium ends behind the goals, known as populares, are standing sections where the most hardcore fans are found. The side stands (plateas), on the other hand, are often seated and can be best for fair-weather fans or tourists.

However, incidents can break out in any section. Away fans have been banned since 2013, so fights in the stands themselves are a rare occurrence. But games can still be tense affairs. Fans have a knack for insulting rivals — and the consequences can be explosive. In February 2022, Estudiantes goalkeeper Mariano Andujar tried to attack Huracán fans after they mocked him over the death of his father.

If things do get rough, it’s usually due to a small minority. If you’re unlucky enough to be nearby, you can usually avoid trouble by just leaving the area. Regular match-goers will know that small flare-ups in large crowds everywhere are fairly common.

What to know before you go

There are a few factors you should take into account before attending a match.

The first is barrabravas, hard-core organized groups in Argentine football. Similar to British football firms and Brazilian torcidas, they are often violent and can be linked with crime. Traditionally, they enter the stadium at the last possible moment before kick-off and hang around the center of the home popular stand, which you’ll recognize by the flags and long cloths hanging around and on the fences.

If a brawl breaks out before, during, or after the game in the area surrounding the stadium, the police are bound to intervene. Police crackdowns are sadly not uncommon in Argentine football, with officers often shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at crowds to disperse them. Another factor to consider is away fans. Although they’ve been banned for league games, you can still find some passing for neutrals. Home and visiting fans are also allowed at Copa Argentina and international competition games. Away fans are often allowed to leave the stadium beforehand and disperse before the home crowd starts their exit.

As with any massive event, the key advice for staying safe is familiarizing yourself with exit routes, learning about the surrounding areas from other fans and guides, and keeping your belongings close by. While some stadiums, like River Plate’s Monumental or Vélez Sarsfield’s José Amalfitani, are located in relatively calm, well-connected areas, others may require you to plan ahead for your trip and understand what your options are.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald