In this assignment you must define the meaning of a stadium considering the social, cultural, economic and futbol significances for any given club.
Further, this assignment must include how movement(s), TRAPOS, passion, AGUANTE, and music play a role in the identity of fans and HINCHADAS. Within this section, define the difference between, simpatizante, hincha, and hinchada.
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Soccer & Society Vol. 10, No. 2, March 2009, 160–182
ISSN 1466-0970 print/ISSN 1743-9590 online © 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/14660970802601647 http://www.informaworld.com
Stadiums and society in twenty-first century Buenos Aires
Department of Geography, University of North Carolina, Durham, USA Taylor and FrancisFSAS_A_360332.sgm10.1080/14660970802601647Soccer and Society1466-0970 (print)/1743-9590 (online)Original Article2009Taylor & Francis102000000March 2009Dr [email protected]
Greater Buenos Aires (GBA) has 69 soccer stadiums, more than any other city. It is also home to ritualized, violent conflicts between soccer fans, and between fans and police. In a stark contrast to stadiums in Europe, Asia and North America, every soccer stadium in GBA has protective fences lining the fields, most topped with razor wire. The institutional structure of soccer in Argentina and the multitude of actors associated with the stadiums in GBA complicate the management and control of the urban environment as well as the stadiums themselves. By examining the roles of soccer clubs, fans, police, government and the media in the control and operation of soccer stadiums, this essay explores the connections between soccer, society, conflict and urban governance in Argentina’s largest city.
Introduction While Argentina produces world-class athletes and teams in rugby, tennis, polo and field hockey, the overwhelming popularity of soccer sustains a network of geographic relationships that is impossible to describe in its entirety. The social, economic, polit- ical and physical infrastructures that comprise the world of soccer are interlinked, overlapping, historically continuous and staggeringly complex. The individual and collective narratives and meanings that extend from the space and place of a particular stadium form an integral component of the social and cultural history of the city as a whole. These stadium-based narratives figure in everyday language, literature, indi- vidual identities and the production of cultural norms. Thus, by entering into Argen- tine society through the stadium, we are exposed to a phenomenally complex range of ideas, issues, histories and geographic relationships.
Attending a soccer game in one of Greater Buenos Aires’ 69 stadiums (Figures 1 and 2) is one of the most spectacular and vibrant urban experiences in the world. The exuberance and passion of the fans is matched on the field by intense physical, and highly skilled, competition. Even lower division games are highly charged affairs with thousands of spectators waving flags, burning flares, chanting, singing and threatening rival groups (Figure 3). The national leagues have been repeatedly suspended in recent years due to security concerns; local and national governments are imposing punitive disciplinary measures on teams with greater frequency and severity. At issue is the control over urban space, involving a host of actors who exercise dominion over limited spatial domains both inside and outside the stadiums. The complex relation- ships between these actors impede the development of solutions to the ever present and elemental violence. This violence is historically situated in team, class, labour,
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ethnic and geographic antagonisms and is exacerbated by the increasing polarization of Argentine society along socio-economic lines. These forces, combined with histor- ically situated identities, rapidly transform stadiums and their surrounding urban spaces on match day and create social environments that are highly charged and frequently violent (Figure 4). Figure 1. Greater Buenos Aires.Figure 2. Soccer stadiums in Greater Buenos Aires 2006.Figure 3. The barrabrava of Dock Sud, a third division team, gets into the groove.Figure 4. The fortifications at Estadio Islas Malvinas of Club Athletico All Boys resemble a prison more than a space of leisure.
By examining the ways in which stadiums contribute to the organization, transfor- mation and contestation of urban space, this essa y explores the intersection of multi- ple actors in the stadiums of Buenos Aires and their role in the production and control of violent spectacle. This is accomplished by exploring the history of stadiums in the city and then turning to a contemporary analysis of actors and causes of violence in soccer stadiums, connecting them to larger socio-economic, cultural and political forces within the urban and national polity. The conclusion offers little hope for improvement in the current situation but offers some suggestions for making sense of the continued violence.
A brief history of soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires The British introduced modern sports to Argentina in the latter decades of the nine- teenth century.1 Commensurate with the first wave of industrial development, the approximately 40,000 expatriate British in Argentina founded private schools and
Figure 1. Greater Buenos Aires.
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social clubs where they continued the institutionalized sports that had so recently become a part of their culture.2 As early as 1876, the Sociedad Sportiva installed a 10,000 capacity horseracing stadium in the neighbourhood of Palermo on the site of today’s Hippodromo Argentino, and club members played soccer, polo and cricket on the infield.3 The first soccer team in Buenos Aires was organized at the English High School in the 1880s and modern sporting practices were generally limited to the private clubs and schools of the local elite and British expatriates.4 It was out of these institutional settings that the first soccer league in Buenos Aires emerged in 1893 and by 1899 there were two divisions – a first division of four British high school teams, and a second division of nine teams from Buenos Aires’ public secondary schools.5
As was the case in most Latin American cities, soccer’s diffusion occurred both formally and informally, between and across socio-economic groups. The most likely spaces for informal diffusion were in the dock areas where British mariners played with local labourers, or industrial settings where British managers played with and against their Argentine employees. Globally, Argentina was just behind England and Scotland in developing organized soccer leagues and we can be fairly certain that the
Figure 2. Soccer stadiums in Greater Buenos Aires 2006.
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sport’s diffusion was not strictly a top-down phenomenon.6 The spread of soccer (and stadiums) was aided and abetted by its plasticity, a lack of autochthonous urban sport- ing culture and recent European immigrants’ familiarity with it. Informal practice could happen on nearly any level ground and, in the rapidly expanding city, there was an abundance of open space. By 1901, there were four divisions in the Argentine
Figure 3. The barrabrava of Dock Sud, a third division team, gets into the groove.
Figure 4. The fortifications at Estadio Islas Malvinas of Club Athletico All Boys resemble a prison more than a space of leisure.
164 C. Gaffney
Association Football League (AAFL) and, by 1907, there were around 350 soccer clubs in Buenos Aires.7 The local press referred to the growing popularity of soccer as a ‘fever’, ‘wave’ and ‘social mania’, words that suggest soccer spread contagion- like amongst young porteños (port dwellers) of all classes.8
A demographic boom and localized settlement patterns abetted the rapid spread of soccer in Buenos Aires. Between 1870 and 1930 the population of Buenos Aires exploded from 180,000 to 2,250,000, primarily as a result of European immigration. Argentina did not develop an export-orientated industrial system until the last third of the nineteenth century and along with the population, the economy grew in response to British capital investment, the development of refrigeration (which allowed for the transport of Argentine beef to Europe), and the development of rail and streetcar transport. These technological and globalizing forces also caused the city to expand away from the coast into the pampas. Many new immigrants settled into ethnic enclaves, retaining their language and culture as they tried to make sense of their new and rapidly changing urban environment. The space of the neighbour- hood frequently helped to organize these identities, marking boundaries in a complex urban world.
Within the neighbourhood context, soccer teams sprang from informal associa- tions of young men. The most important determinant of team longevity was the appro- priation of a space to play. As the city expanded, there were many open fields that were levelled and improved upon until they became playable fields, or canchas. Over time, teams improved their grounds, moved to better sites as they amassed capital, or were forced to the less expensive periphery in search of land. The fledgling teams also appropriated space in parks and in the port area, from which the municipal govern- ment expelled them from time to time.
As soccer expanded amongst nearly all segments of porteño society it began to occupy a tremendous amount of urban space. It also increased as an element of public culture, gaining increased attention in the press and providing employment in sport- ing goods manufacturing and sales. The proliferation of stadiums, most of which were very small, served to bring residents of different zones together and facilitated the development and identification of neighbourhood-specific identities. These evolv- ing identities and geographies helped to position individuals and groups within the larger urban matrix, not only in relation to each other but in opposition to other people and spaces. In addition to Porteños, many teams took the name Argentinos in order to distinguish themselves from recent immigrants. Defensores and Unidos were also prevalent names and implied defence of the locale and a united front, respec- tively. Many teams also took the name of their neighbourhood. As teams were formed with the explicit intention of confronting others, it is not surprising that the space of the stadium hosted contests between sub-cultural groups that were in direct competition with others for sporting and territorial supremacy in the rapidly evolving metropolis.
These were the basic foundations upon which a very strong soccer culture grew throughout the twentieth century. As with many stadium cultures, Buenos Aires’ stadiums became associated with powerful political figures, hosted ritualized conflicts between competing urban groups, and began to accrue sedimented layers of meaning. Given the primacy of Buenos Aires in the Argentine urban system (with one third of the national population living there), the city’s stadiums were the epicentre of national sporting culture and served to shape identities and meanings for Argentines of all classes at local, urban, national and international scales.
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The transformation of urban space There can be no question that a stadium impacts its locality and the larger urban environment with a certain periodicity. While always present as landmarks, nodes of transportation, sites of employment, tourism and collective memory, on match day stadiums energize urban districts, filling the streets and clogging transportation arteries. The effect of match day urban space around stadiums in Buenos Aires is particularly noticeable, radically transforming the feel and texture of ‘ordinary’ streets. This is especially true here where lethal agents of the state make a conspicuous display of force. The show of force is relative to the scale of the match and the potential for violence. Where a superclásico between Boca Juniors and River Plate may warrant 1,200 police (mounted, riot, traffic), a fourth division game between Sacachispas and Colegiales might only necessitate 30 or 40.
At any given game, localized geography becomes increasingly militarized as hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of fans make their way to the stadium. Mounted and riot police control avenues of ingress and egress for home and visiting fans, altering everyday geography. The presence of hundreds and sometimes thou- sands of battle-ready and battle-tested security forces add to an already tense and anxious environment. The police are prepared for violence. If and when it occurs, the police truncheons do not tend to discriminate. For important international or derby matches (clásicos or el superclásico), visiting fans have to be bussed to the stadium as their unfamiliarity with shifting local geography could land them unwittingly in ‘enemy territory’.9 The local supporters are at a significant advantage, and visiting fans are always given a 15-minute head start after the final whistle.
Approaching or leaving the stadium, urban space is transformed through barri- cades, the presence of vendors on sidewalks, unemployed men waving their shirts in an attempt to lure drivers to empty parking spaces, or young toughs asking for change. The smell of urine surrounding the stadium is strong, and hundreds of young men make their way to the entrance drinking beer, waving flags, chanting and singing their team songs. To those who habitually and ritually participate in the transformation of urban space, the intersection of multiple actors is a negotiated routine, rather part of local cultural norms and knowledge. However, the complexity of interactions and rapid changes in flows, territories and codes are not easily negotiated or deciphered. When a group of people start running it is generally best to do the same.
On any given weekend, there are dozens of soccer games in Buenos Aires, each one requiring high levels of organization, movement, anticipation, action and reaction. Each stadium impacts its surrounding environment in different ways and involves thousands of different actors who play a particular role in the stadium spectacle. The ways in which this happens are beyond the scope of this essay. I will instead turn to the main actors in the scene.
Actors In and around the space of the stadium we find an unequal representation of a wide spectrum of society. Among fans, males between the ages of 14 and 45 are over- represented, while females of all ages are under-represented. Additionally, within certain sections of the Argentine stadium, the representational numbers are even more distorted. In the popular section of the stadium, one will rarely find anyone over the age of 35, and within the ranks of the most ‘hard-core’ fans, one will almost never find women, the very young or middle-aged.10 Elderly people are a rare sight at the
166 C. Gaffney
stadium. Part of the reason for this is the highly volatile nature of the popular sections and the turbulent street scenes. There are few controls on the number of spectators allowed into these sections, and one must be willing to physically engage the crowd in order to maintain one’s undifferentiated place. The physical exertion necessary to remain standing can last for up to four hours, as important matches require that one arrive well before the scheduled kick-off. This militates against the presence of the very young, the very old and those not willing to be pressed among thousands of surging male bodies for hours at a time.
The more sedate, and typically older, crowd occupies the platea. Tickets for most platea seats were between 15 and 45 pesos in 2006, again, varying with the scale and importance of the game. Most of the women who attend stadiums in Buenos Aires will be found in the platea, as will fathers and sons, older men, families and tourists. The platea is generally free of violence and fireworks, but obscenities are more than common and passions run as deeply here as they do in the popular.
The ticket prices of Argentine stadiums are reasonably affordable even for the working classes, but it is not infrequently that one finds young men begging for money to buy a two-dollar ticket to enter the popular section of the stadium. Thus, the stadium has remained financially accessible to nearly all classes in Buenos Aires, save for the most marginalized. However, by becoming members of a barrabrava (orga- nized fan or hooligan group) even the very poor can gain free access to the stadium.
In general, and particularly in Argentina, the soccer stadium is a space for a limited, self-selecting public that tends to cut across class divisions and more research may reveal a relatively proportional representation of social classes. Despite the potential to be a fully ‘representational space’, the crowd composition at a given soccer stadium in Buenos Aires is approximately 97% male, which dramatically shapes the environment. I discuss the development of the masculine nature of stadium space in Buenos Aires in other works.11
The cumulative capacity for all of the soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires is around one million people, about one fifteenth of the metropolitan population. So even if they were all used to capacity on the same day, the vast majority of people would not be able to attend. While reliable attendance figures are not available (for reasons we shall discuss), it can be safely said that attending stadiums is everywhere a minority event at a given moment and that most people have been to a stadium at least once. In 2004, at least 3,692,773 people attended soccer games in Buenos Aires, approximately one fifth of the population.12
Within this limited, male-dominated social framework there are four principal groups of actors that contrive to shape the use, function and perception of stadium space: clubs, fans, police and the media. The relationships between these actors are much more complex than I will be able to elucidate here. But it should be taken a priori that these highly nuanced relationships are marked by corruption, ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ and mutual exploitation.13
Clubs Stadiums in Greater Buenos Aires and throughout most of Latin America are the prop- erty of social clubs. Membership in these independent clubs is open to the general public and provides a host of services to members in the sede social, or social centre. The clubs range widely in size, location and resources. Socios pay monthly member- ship dues and are granted access to the club’s varied sporting, social and educational
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resources. Some sedes sociales (Boca Juniors, River Plate, Ferrocarrill Oeste) are located next to or within their respective stadium and provide tennis courts, swimming pools, dining rooms and meeting space for the entire membership.14
Historically, many clubs have had to move their stadiums away from their sede social because of the high property values and demand for space within the city of Buenos Aires. The stadium and soccer are the most public manifestations of the social club and are responsible for bringing in the majority of club receipts, whether through cable television contracts, corporate sponsorship, the sale of players or ticket revenue.15
The democratically elected leaders of some clubs are powerful social, economic and political actors. For instance, the president of Boca Juniors, Mauricio Macri, is the leading 2007 presidential candidate of the centre-right coalition and ran for the mayor- ship of Buenos Aires on the platform that he would be able to transform the city, just as he had done with his private businesses and with Boca Juniors. The president of Chacarita Juniors, Luis Barrionuevo, also a senator in the national congress, refused to answer the questions of a federal judge regarding violence in soccer because he claimed he was being persecuted by ex-president Menem.16 Macri, Barrionuevo and others like them are often life-long members of the clubs they head up and as such have a vested personal interest in their sporting, economic and political successes. The involvement of high-level political figures in the running of social clubs, soccer teams, stadiums and associated violence frequently involves conflicts of interests, claims of corruption and a lack of transparency in local and national governance. The exact nature and extent of most of these relationships are not clear, but the effects of widespread corruption and continued violence are increasingly evident in the inability of the clubs to prevent or control violence. There is growing concern that while many clubs are falling inextricably into debt, in part due to declining memberships and increasing violence, the governing members of clubs are maintaining a level of wealth and privilege at the expense of the club, a situation many see as a reflection of Argentine society at large.
The historical relationships between clubs, local identities and national govern- ment are also quite complex. From the turn of the twentieth century, soccer clubs played a central role in the social and political life in the neighbourhoods in which they were formed. Not only did they serve as venues for organized social activities but they ‘came to represent the locality and contributed to the integration of a young immigrant population into Argentine society’.17 Because of their centrality in neigh- bourhood life, the clubs became a way for local politicians to gain visibility and to secure a solid voting block. Becoming a club director was a political process in its own right that frequently resulted in involvement in the larger political world of Buenos Aires.
When soccer was professionalized in Argentina in 1931, the importance of the clubs in economic and political spheres increased. Investing in stadium infrastructure, expanding the social club, and in some cases travelling to Europe, became ways of increasing the club’s exposure and revenue.18 While the clubs continued to be run by amateur, elected directors, the economic and political influence of the clubs further centralized soccer in the cultural life of the city.
Clubs that associated themselves with influential political figures could count on their assistance in building or improving their stadiums. This clientelism reached an apogee during Peron’s tenure as president when most of the city’s major clubs had padrinos (godfathers) in high government positions. The rash of stadiums built with state sponsorship in the 1940s and 1950s is directly attributable to the relationships
168 C. Gaffney
between national political leaderships and clubs. One such stadium is the Estádio Presidente Peron of Racing Club. Indeed, most of the stadiums in Buenos Aires are named after prominent men.
By the 1950s and 1960s the economic potential of soccer began to dictate the management practices of clubs. The advent of televised games brought additional revenue to clubs and the increase of high-value player transfers to European clubs brought millions of dollars into club coffers. This further encouraged the approxima- tion of local political figures to the club and a directorship was frequently a path to riches. In the local community, clubs augmented their neighbourhood-based member- ship by providing new recreational and social facilities. As soccer expanded on local, national and global scales, the local clubs acquired more wealth through the sale of players and began to exercise more influence over their locales. Even smaller clubs extended their range of services by offering swimming, tennis, dance and other recre- ational activities. Many clubs created their own developmental programmes for young soccer players based on European models and, in the 1970s, large clubs began to take responsibility for the education of their up-and-coming soccer stars.
During the military dictatorship of 1976–83, clubs functioned as a bastion of democracy in a totalitarian environment. These civic entities provided some of the few spaces of free political association. And while there is not much historical evidence to corroborate the idea, it is possible that the social and political space of social clubs were the loci of organized resistance to the military regime. On the other hand, it is widely suspected that the military regime used the barrabravas to organize against the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo and to chant pro-government slogans during the 1978 World Cup. The implication is that soccer stadium cultures exercised an impor- tant political role in the production, contestation and control of public space that extended well beyond the stadium walls.
During the 1990s, the historically situated identities that the clubs represented appeared to be in crisis at the same time that their centrality in the culture increased disproportionately. Alabarces suggests that this paradoxical crisis was a product of the explosion in the mediums of communication that displaced entrenched notions of class and replaced popular, national cultures with international popular cultures. In this expansion, soccer, a fundamental object of global culture, has tended to amplify its limits of representation amongst classes. However, in the same way that soccer has expanded its economic, geographic and social reach, it has produced mechanisms of exclusion. The neo-liberal regimes of the 1990s have expelled large numbers of people from the market and increased socio-economic disparities. The increased costs of tickets, relative to earned wages, and the wide availability of cable television may have altered stadium demographics.19
Following the economic and political crisis of 2001 club membership began to decline precipitously. The devaluation of the Argentine peso effectively tripled the cost of membership and the middle-class base of most clubs dwindled. Since 2004, club memberships have begun to increase although the added income from member- ship has not allowed smaller clubs to extricate themselves from grave financial diffi- culties. The increasingly critical financial association between clubs and mass-media outlets penalizes smaller clubs that compete in lower divisions. In order to make ends meet, small clubs must sell their best players to larger clubs who then sell them to European, Middle Eastern, Mexican or Brazilian clubs for millions of dollars. Smaller clubs are in severe financial difficulty and have trouble paying the limited salaries of their players. This is consistent with the fading fortunes of smaller clubs in Brazil.
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Regardless of their financial condition, the clubs continue to be the locus of very powerful identity constructions for millions of people in Buenos Aires and Argentina. These identities are based in a number of different arenas: historical, familial, national, class, ethnic, neighbourhood and labour. Club loyalties form an integral part of personal identity in Argentina. Instead of saying one likes a team or is a fan of a team, one uses the immutable verb ser, to be. This implies that club affiliation is as immu- table as ethnic, national or family identities: Yo soy un hombre / una mujer, Yo soy un professor / una profesora, Yo soy Argentino/a, Yo soy el hijo / la hija de mi padre, Yo soy de Boca/Racing/Independiente/etc [I am a man / a woman, I am a professor, I am an Argentine, I am a son, I am the daughter of my father, I am of Boca, Racing, Inde- pendiente /etc]. These identities extend across time and space to connect with the stadium, the home and principal source of territorial and symbolic identity for the team.
Simpatizante, hincha, hinchada and the barra brava There exists a hierarchy to fandom in Argentina. A simpatizante is someone who has a favourite team or teams and follows the various championships casually. He or she might go to the stadium six to ten times per year, but stays away from games that have a potential for violence. Typically, the simpatizante is not a club member and will not wear the colours of the team to the stadium for fear of reprisal from rival fans or police. The hincha (the literal translation is someone who is ‘pumped up’) is likely to be a club socio, regularly goes to the stadium, sometimes travelling to away games within the city and watches games outside of the city on television. Depending on the dedi- cation of the hincha, he or she will travel between cities to support the team. They form the majority presence at games and generally occupy space in the popular, to either side of the barrabrava. The collective group of fans in a stadium is called the hinchada. Through the diverse fan groups of the city, the population of Buenos Aires forms clans that may or may not coincide with class, ethnic or neighbourhood divisions.20 The most powerful and visible elements of these clans are groups called barrabrava.
The barrabravas first came to prominence in the mid-1960s during a time of increased political violence in Argentina and represented the tribalization of soccer supporters.21 During this time, the barrabravas became the loci of strong identity formations for socially, politically and economically marginalized youth. In an increasingly hostile political environment that limited free association in public space, the stadium became a place and space to exercise violence against the state. The tradi- tionally carnivalesque environment of the stadium became a site of violent struggle between the state (police) and disenfranchised members of society (barra brava). Although the barrabravas have many middle-class members, the majority, with little economic opportunity and less education, began to organize their lives around the one element of society in which they could be publicly seen, heard and understood: soccer. In a very short period of time, the barrabravas developed close relationships with the clubs who came to depend on them for intra- and inter-club political rivalries, economic stability in terms of labour for the club, and pride in having the most vocal, colourful and passionate group of supporter
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