Uruguayan police repression of Boca fans causes outrage

In a video of the incident, one officer is seen with an unsheathed sword

Uruguayan Police repressed traveling Boca Juniors fans with tear gas, rubber bullets and even a sword. 

Boca Juniors and Uruguayan side Nacional played a 0-0 tie on Wednesday night at Montevideo’s Gran Parque Central stadium in the first leg of their Copa Libertadores Round of 16 fixture. However, the match was marred by violence, with police crackdowns and fighting fans before and after the game.

It all started in the afternoon, when fans of the Argentine club arrived in Montevideo. Several videos circulated on social media showing clashes between the rival fans as they gathered at their meeting point.

However, things took a turn for the worse when Boca fans attempted to enter the stand designated for the visitors at the start of the game — they were attacked by the mounted police, who launched tear gas, fired rubber bullets and hit them with batons.

In a video shared by journalist Leandro Aguilera on his social media, the police are seen attacking the fans as they get into the stadium. The images captured one of the police officers holding an unsheathed sword, which shocked many on social media — allegedly a ceremonial weapon that is not meant to be used.

Police Chief Richard Cabral cited overcrowding as the reason behind cracking down on the visiting fans in a press conference. More than 5,000 fans traveled to Uruguay but only 2,200 tickets were sold to the visitors. There were also reports of fans trying to enter the stadium using fake tickets.

“They allowed all the barras’ buses go through. They let them go straight in and then closed the fences,” a Boca fan told Uruguayan newspaper Ovación referring to the groups of organized football firms known in Argentine football as barrabravas. “Then they started firing rubber bullets and they didn’t let us move for three hours.”

The issues continued after the match ended. As Boca fans waited at Montevideo’s Bus Terminal, Nacional supporters broke into the building. Another confrontation started, with stones being thrown and several businesses suffering damages. Three fans were detained, two Uruguayans and one Argentine.

On Thursday, Nacional released a statement condemning the incidents, but mentioned that “after the arrival of thousands of fans without tickets, more than 850 counterfeit tickets were found.” They also warned their fans against the prospect of traveling to Buenos Aires for the second leg of the fixture without tickets to “prevent similar undesirable situations.”

The second leg between Nacional and Boca Juniors will be played next Wednesday, August 9 at 9:00 p.m. at La Bombonera, with a coveted spot in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores still very much in the balance.


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