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Argentine Police Disperse Soccer Fans With Water Cannons

Buenos Aires, Jun 24 : Police with shields marching behind water cannons scattered hundreds of demonstrators outside River Plate's stadium Thursday as they called for the resignation of the football club's president Daniel Passarella and

PTI [ Updated: June 24, 2011 11:11 IST ]
argentine police disperse soccer fans with water cannons
argentine police disperse soccer fans with water cannons

Buenos Aires, Jun 24 : Police with shields marching behind water cannons scattered hundreds of demonstrators outside River Plate's stadium Thursday as they called for the resignation of the football club's president Daniel Passarella and coach Juan Jose Lopez.


The situation surrounding one of Buenos Aires' most famous teams threatens to become more violent as the club faces relegation to the Argentine second division.

River Plate lost 2-0 to second-division club Belgrano on Wednesday, and a failure in the second-leg playoff match Sunday would send the club to the second tier.

The match at Belgrano's stadium was stopped for 20 minutes early in the second half when hooligans ripped through a chain-link fence and shoved and taunted River players on the field. Dozens of invaders when crawled back through the fence, or climbed it—trying to avoid barbed wire at the top.

Violence is endemic in Argentine football.

The country has had 13 football-related deaths in just over a year, and the nonprofit group, Let's Save Football, says 256 people overall have died in football-related violence in the country.

Interior ministry authorities and officials of the Argentina Football Association met Thursday to decide if Sunday's match can be played with fans present.

Television and news reports said eight police were injured when they moved on protesters as they tried to enter club offices inside the stadium at northern Buenos Aires.

There may be trouble no matter what officials decide. Filling a 50,000-seat stadium for such a match is dangerous, and shutting out fans could stir even more anger.

One banner hanging outside the River Plate stadium read: “Kill or be killed.”

The general manager of the Belgrano club, Armando Perez, said he'd agree to playing with no fans.

“I would accept playing behind closed doors at Monumental,” he said, referring to the River Plate stadium which also serves as the national stadium. “The first thing is people's lives. After, it's a football match.”

River Plate has a similar stature to Manchester United in England or Real Madrid in Spain with Argentine fans. It has won 33 league titles -- 10 more than any other club—but its performance has been in freefall recently. The club has debts reported at $19 million and has sold off many of its top players to European clubs, hoping to save itself.

The AFA has tried to distance itself from the recurring violence. Many have placed the blame on AFA President Julio Grondona, who is also the senior vice president of FIFA and the No. 2 to president Sepp Blatter. AP

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