Rowdy fans barred, 14 arrested in Mexico soccer match brawl
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s soccer federation said Tuesday it will ban clubs of rowdy fans known as “barras” from attending away matches after a mass weekend brawl among soccer fans that left over two dozen people injured, three of them critically.
The federation and top-division league owners announced that the host team in Saturday’s match, Queretaro, will have to play home matches without fans for one year after stadium security was shown to be inadequate.
The Queretaro team’s fan club, or “barra,” will be banned from attending even local games for three years. The team’s owner will be required to sell his stake in it and the current team management will be banned from the league for five years.
The federation also levied a fine of about $70,000, and ruled the Saturday match — which had been tied 1-1 when the fighting broke out — to be a 3-0 win for the opposing team, Atlas from the city of Guadalajara.
The club owners said they would institute measures to identify fans entering stadiums.
Authorities in north-central state of Queretaro said earlier Tuesday they had arrested 13 suspects in the brawl. A 14th suspect was turned in by his mother to police. Officials said that raids and searches are continuing in several cities to find the others.
Guadalupe Murguía, the interior secretary of Queretaro state, said a total of 26 people had been identified as participating in the brawl.
The arrests were based on a review of videos and other evidence from the Saturday confrontation.
The state has suspended five officials after security forces at the stadium were unable to control the violence. They include police and civil defense employees, and three people responsible for planning and preparations.
The private company partly responsible for security at the soccer stadium also had its contracts cancelled.
Police were also at the venue when the brawl occurred Saturday at a match between Queretaro and Atlas, the reigning league champion.
All matches in Mexico’s top division were cancelled Sunday.
Saturday’s match was suspended in the 62nd minute after multiple fights broke out in the stands. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the clashes.
Only three or four of the injured men remained hospitalized. They may have been the three who were seen unconscious or badly beaten on the ground, being repeatedly kicked and pummeled in videos posted on social media.
After several minutes, some of the fights moved to the field, where some people were armed with chairs and metal bars.
One fan could be seen pulling a knife to cut the nets of one goal. Others destroyed one side’s bench and some fought in the tunnel to the field.
Enrique Alfaro, the governor of Jalisco state, whose capital is Guadalajara, was asked Monday about local press reports that the brawl may have involved local criminal gangs fighting visitors who purportedly belonged to the Jalisco drug cartel.
“What it seems to me is that what we saw was not a normal dispute between fans,” Alfaro said. “What happened there was something that looked different.”
Alfaro, however, refused to comment on whether drug gangs were involved.
Mikel Arriola, president of the MX League, said it would likely adopt biometric or facial recognition systems at stadiums to identify troublemakers.
“We have to implement digital security measures to identify those who attend, starting with the barras,” Arriola said, adding he would propose at a club owners meeting Tuesday that those clubs be barred from their teams’ away matches.