A 22-year-old man identified as Emanuel Balbo died on Monday after being beaten and thrown off the stands by Belgrano fans at a soccer match in Argentina. He had been brain dead for two days following the attack on Saturday at Mario Alberto Kempes stadium, in the Argentinean city of Córdoba. “My son has a one percent chance of surviving,” his father had told the media.
To get an idea of the problem of violence in Argentinean soccer, consider the following facts: soccer stadiums in Argentina do not allow supporters of visiting sides into matches to avoid clashes between fans; the police presence at matches can be counted in the thousands; and the country’s Security Ministry has just launched a new set of guidelines to combat violence in the sport.
But all of these efforts are having little effect, and the country’s grounds continue to resemble a Roman circus, with avoidable deaths that no one appears to mourn, and that certainly are no obstacle to the action on the pitch continuing.
Initial reports suggested that the victim was a Talleres supporter who had snuck into the game
The latest life to be claimed by the brutality in the sport comes after an incident that had nothing to do with soccer. Balbo was beaten by a group of supporters from his own club, Belgrano, before being thrown over the side of a stand. He ended up brain dead from his injuries.
The images of the incident shocked many over the Easter weekend. In them, the young man is rushed to the edge of the stand in the Mario Alberto Kempes stadium in the city of Córdoba, before being bundled over the side. The incident took place during a so-called clásico game between Belgrano and Talleres, the most popular teams in the city, which is located 700 kilometers from Buenos Aires.
The game was played in front of Belgrano fans alone, and initial reports suggested that the victim was a Talleres supporter who had snuck into the game – a dangerous but regular practice in Argentina since the ban on visiting team fans was first enforced.
Emanuel was knocked unconscious before he was pushed off the Willington stand
It later emerged that the incident stemmed from a personal problem that the Balbo family has had for several years with a man called Óscar Eduardo Gómez.
“I want to make it clear that my son is not a Talleres fan, he does not have any [club] tattoos and he wasn’t stealing in the stands,” explained Raúl Balbo, the father of Emanuel, speaking to TV channel Cadena 3 in a bid to quash the rumors flying around.
“My son is a Belgrano fan, but the problem comes from the fact that four years ago they killed one of my sons, and Emanuel found himself in the crowd with one of the men who killed him, Óscar Eduardo ‘El Sapito’ Gómez. That’s where it all happened, and given that Gómez is not much of a man, instead of defending himself alone he incited all of the friends he had there to violence and they beat up my son,” he explained.
The episode he was referring to took place on November 25, 2012, when Gómez and another man were “racing each other in two cars.”
I am still waiting for the Argentinean justice system to do something Raúl Balbo, father of the victim
“They crashed [into my son] and they killed him, him and his friend. This guy was driving one of the cars and as Emanuel recognized him, Gómez called all of his friends so that they would say that he was a Talleres fan and that’s when they started to beat him up,” the injured man’s father explained.
Apparently, Emanuel was knocked unconscious before he was pushed off the Willington stand, as a result of the beating meted out by the friends of Gómez, who was arrested after the incident. The hospital that treated him explained that he was admitted with fractures, with a brain hemorrhage, and in cardiac arrest. “His condition is very serious,” the hospital explained. “He has a major head trauma and he is in critical condition, with very few reflexes and little sign of brain activity.”
Only his heart is keeping the young man alive.
“After hitting my son with his car, Gómez was arrested, but I don’t think he was behind bars for more than 40 days,” explained the victim’s father between sobs. “I am still waiting for the Argentinean justice system to do something, because they already took one son away from me and now they are going to take another.”
English version by Simon Hunter.