Exploring Football’s Violence: Is South America the Epicenter?

As much as there is fun, football violence will always exist. If you watched the most recent World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina, you’d know that what is said about football in South America is completely true. That continent is most definitely not a place for the weak.

football violence: Is South America the most violent place for football?

To be honest, the Brazil vs Argentina game should have answered that question in totality. Before a ball was even kicked in that game, a fight had broken out in the stands which was so bad that we saw Brazilian police assaulting Argentine fans.

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football violence

The rivalry between those two countries is perhaps the fiercest in the entire world of football. You could even argue that it’s a fiercer rivalry than El Clasico. And that rivalry always seems to create an atmosphere of violence anytime the two countries meet.

Because of how bad the violence was in the stands before the World Cup qualifier kicked off, Lionel Messi and his teammates walked down the tunnel and refused to play until things had calmed down.

Even when the game finally started, we saw a really heated battle on the pitch. There were 42 fouls in that game. FORTY-TWO!

This wasn’t even the first time we had seen a thing like that. When these two met in the 2021 Copa America final, there were 41 fouls committed in 90 minutes. For context, the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy saw just 34 fouls committed in the space of 120 minutes.

You know what’s crazy?

Brazil and Argentina’s rivalry goes beyond just the national teams. Even at club level, there’s still beef, and the beef often turns violent.

When Fluminense and Boca Juniors locked horns in the Copa Libertadores final, it was another tale of unnecessary violence. We all saw how the Boca Juniors fans who had traveled to Brazil were treated by Brazilian fans and even the police at Copacabana beach. It was nothing short of a disgrace.

football violence

But sadly, these are not even the worst of stories that have come out of South America. I mean, we all heard about Luis Diaz’s parents getting kidnapped in Colombia. His mom was released relatively quickly but his dad’s release took longer than one would have hoped, and you could tell that it was a very horrible experience for the Liverpool man and his family.

football violence

But even with how very horrible that sounds, it is not the craziest story that has come out of Colombia. You guys remember Andres Escobar, right? His only crime was scoring an own goal against the USA while playing for Colombia at the 1994 World Cup. He got back to Colombia and was shot 6 times in his own hometown. The criminals didn’t even care that he was one of theirs, they shot him dead right there.

Imagine getting murdered by your own countrymen just because you scored an own goal. How much more violent can it get?

And speaking of murders just reminds us of the game that happened between Atletico Mineiro and Cruzeiro. Hours before this derby, a fight broke out between the fans of both clubs and some say it could have been planned and premeditated from social media. Reports say that a 25-year-old fan lost his life in that altercation and another bystander was injured by a bullet. 

And for you to know how bad it is over there in South America, these supposed fans do horrible things like this even to players they love and adore. In 2014, when some guys abducted Carlos Tevez’s father, they reportedly told him “your son’s our idol but we need the money.” Wow! Tevez and his family had to pay the sum of 400,000 dollars to the kidnappers for the man to be released.

And guess what! Even the greatest player of all time is not immune from all this. One would think that Lionel Messi is worshiped in Argentina, and well, he is, but even after winning the World Cup for Argentina for the first time in almost 4 decades, some gunmen sent 14 shots through his wife’s family’s shop in the town where Messi grew up and left a message saying –

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“Messi, we are waiting for you.”

If even Lionel Messi isn’t completely safe in his own hometown, then which footballer is safe in South America?

And these things unfortunately didn’t just start now. Even as far back as 1963, football in South America was violent. Alfredo Di Stefano, one of the best players in the world at the time, was kidnapped from his hotel in Venezuela by a left-wing militant group. The group claimed that they did what they did in order to get the ear of the government, but however virtuous the reason for their actions was, it was certainly a very scary experience for the footballer.

Having heard stories like this, can one really blame Johan Cruyff for refusing to travel to Argentina to represent the Netherlands at the 1978 World Cup?

Many said the Netherlands failed to win the trophy because of his absence, but after hearing his reason for sitting out the tournament, you really cannot blame him. The man was really just scared for his life, and it was worse for him because he had experienced a kidnapping attempt before, so he was not very willing to take that risk of staying in South America for a month, a place notorious for being unsafe and violent, especially when it comes to football.

So, having heard all these stories involving even the biggest players in the world, do you need convincing that South America is the most violent place for football?

Of course, the passion for the game in the continent is great, but something really has to be done about the level of violence that is usually exhibited in that part of the world. It feels like the fans often get a little too passionate about the beautiful game and that quickly turns it ugly.

Why is the sport so violent in South America? Well, sadly, there’s a lot of violence in the continent due to the high levels of poverty, high crime rate, and drug trafficking. And then there is the fact that football is the most popular sport on the continent; it’s like a religion to most of these guys, so the realities in the countries are bound to extend into the sport they love the most.

In fact, some of these violent acts are incited by cartels and violent gangs. The hit on Andres Escobar, kidnap of Luiz Diaz’s parents, the attack on Antonella’s family’s store among others were rumored and reported to have been ordered by one cartel or another. So, if violence in South American football will be curbed for good, then violence and crime in South America will have to be addressed first.

Anyway, what is the most heated game of football you have ever watched? Is it one of these Brazil vs Argentina games? El Clasico from years back? Or a game in the European, African, Asian, or North American league?

Just tell us in the comments. 

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