Hooligans Threaten Players at Gunpoint in Argentina
Racing Club midfielder Giovanni Moreno and forward Federico Santander say they were threatened at gunpoint Tuesday by hooligans who blame them for the club's poor results.
Santander, a forward with the Buenos Aires club, told a radio program that he and Moreno were accosted after practice by several hooligans who put a gun to Moreno's leg and said they would "blow it off" if he didn't leave the club.
The hooligan gangs, known in Argentina as "barrabravas," are a fixture in Argentine football matches where violence takes place at almost every match.
"They told us ... on Sunday we have to win. If not, things will get worse," Santander told the radio station La Red. "Never in my career has anything like this happened."
Santander said the incident happened shortly after they left practice in Moreno's vehicle. He said they were forced to pull over by another car and accosted at gunpoint.
Santander said he could not identify the assailants.
Moreno's agent Agustin Jimenez confirmed the incident and told Fox Radio del Plata that the player "is worried for his family."
Racing Club lost 2-0 on Sunday to Boca Juniors and is near the bottom of the Argentine first-division standings.
According to the Argentine nonprofit group "Let's Save Football," at least six people have died in Argentina in the last six months due to football-related violence. The group says the Argentine Football Association has done little to stem the violence.
Almost every major club in Argentina has a tacit connection to hooligan gangs, which are granted favors by the clubs in exchange for supporting club directors and often their political and labor connections. The gangs park cars, sell tickets, and are widely reported to be involved in selling drugs.
They also have a history of intimidating players. Reports suggest this has often happened with the consent of club management.