Independiente v. Boca police crackdown: club and government blame each other

Eleven fans were injured after police fired rubber bullets at fans on Friday

At least 11 fans and six police officers were injured last Friday in the latest case of police repression in Argentine football. 

It comes after police tear gassed fans at La Plata stadium last year and shot rubber bullets at Defensores de Belgrano fans earlier this year.

The latest violence took place last Friday afternoon at Independiente’s stadium in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires Province. 

The mood was tense all through Independiente’s game against Boca Juniors. In the run-up to the match, fan groups posted social media calls to gather in the parking lot and protest the club’s management. The home side, affectionately known as El Rojo, is fighting relegation in Argentina’s Liga Profesional.

The club has also been facing a financing crisis, with influencer Santiago Maratea even attempting to keep them solvent with a crowdfunding campaign.

Angry fans chanted “Sack them all, out with the lot!” before, during and after the game. Club President Néstor Grindetti was one of the main targets of the fans’ ire. Grindetti is also Mayor of the Buenos Aires suburb city of Lanús and a candidate for Governor of the Buenos Aires Province as part of Patricia Bullrich’s list.

After the full-time whistle went on a 2-0 defeat, the third in four games, fans tried to get from the stands to the stadium’s central hall. There, they found a barricade set up by the Buenos Aires Provincial Police.

Fans were forced into the parking lot, where a scuffle started. The police officers fired rubber bullets at the fans. While many fled, several fought back by throwing stones and rubble.

Afterwards, the club pointed the finger at the Buenos Aires Provincial Police. “We are working together with the A.Pre.Vi.De. (Agency for the Prevention of Violence in Sport, in Spanish) to investigate the unjustified police repression that occurred in the parking lot against the club members who were present,” said a statement on the club’s website.

“We are at the disposal of the competent Prosecutor’s Office to deliver all the images obtained from our surveillance cameras with the intention of clearing up what happened,” Independiente’s statement continued. The club added that a private security company will handle security in the Libertadores de América — Ricardo Enrique Bochini stadium from now on.

However, a different version of the events was given by Eduardo Aparicio, head of Aprevide. “I don’t know if the Independiente directors asked for the crackdown on the club members. They did ask us to act to protect the physical integrity of the fans due to the stones that were being thrown,” he said in an interview on Radio 10. “The total and legal responsibility belongs to the club. It does not seem fair to us that they’re holding the police alone responsible.”

“The police force put order against protesters who threw stones, broke railings and wanted to go after the Independent Board of Directors. This led the leadership and its security personnel to ask the Police to act”.

Buenos Aires Province’s Security Ministry rejected Independiente’s official position and blamed the club’s management. A statement signed by provincial security chief Sergio Berni said: “We all know that in difficult times Grindetti hides away, it was the club’s security secretary, Mr. Machioli, who requested the urgent presence of police personnel, fearing that fans would destroy and burn the club and threaten the integrity of the management, who only wanted to flee the situation or hide, instead of being accountable.”

The ministry added that the local police should not be held responsible for the “ineffectiveness” of Independiente management.

Grindetti hit back at the criticism, saying that the police didn’t support him and that Aprevide’s statement had a “political flavor”.

Grindetti was left in charge of Independiente when journalist Fabián Doman resigned as president in April. This is not the first time Independiente has been dragged into national politics. Previous president Hugo Moyano is the leader of the politically powerful truck drivers’ union. He was forced out after massive protests over the team’s poor performance.

Independiente is languishing in the 24th position in Argentina’s Liga Profesional, making it one of the relegation strugglers. The team, coached by Ricardo Zielinski, has managed just 28 points out of 27 games played, with 6 wins, 10 draws and 11 losses. This puts them ahead of only Vélez Sarsfield, Huracán, Colón de Santa Fe and Arsenal.


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