HOOLIGANISM isn’t tolerated in this country.
Thuggish fans that drag their clubs through the mud are hammered in the courts, while the clubs themselves are raked over the coals by the governing bodies.
It’s a policy that has all but stamped out scenes of violent disorder at UK football matches.
Argentina isn’t so lucky.
I was absolutely sickened by the attack on Boca Juniors’ team coach by fans of deadly rivals River Plate last weekend.
Rightly, the match they were travelling to – the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, effectively South America’s Champions League – was called off.
With Boca’s players – including Carlos Teves – suffering the effects of tear gas, there was no other option.
But now it has been rescheduled for next Sunday, at the Bernabeu in Madrid!
Never mind playing it behind closed doors at the original venue, River Plate’s home stadium, which has a capacity of 66,000.
Never mind moving it to a neutral venue in Argentina.
Forget, even, about playing it elsewhere in South America.
This game now has so much bad blood surrounding it, it has had to be switched 6,000 miles away to a different continent!
To my mind, that’s bonkers.
If the South American governing body had any cojones, they would have scrapped the second leg altogether and awarded the Libertadores to Boca.
That would have laid down a serious marker.
It would have said to the hooligans that follow these Argentinian clubs in huge numbers that their excessive behaviour will not be tolerated.
It would have shown them that their vicious antics have consequences.
Instead, we’re in a situation where River Plate could still win the thing, and their brutal fans will be celebrating what they’ll see as a job well done.
As it stands, River Plate are refusing to play in Madrid, saying the move damages the integrity of the competition.
I think their fans have already done that.
Don’t get me wrong. I would have had sympathy for River’s players if the South American governing body had awarded the trophy to Boca, given they’d earned a 2-2 draw away in the first leg.
The River Plate squad didn’t orchestrate the attack on their fellow professionals. They just wanted to play a game of football.
In a sense, they were prevented from doing so, just as Boca’s players were.
But this was a real opportunity to send a message to the hooligans in Argentina that they are no longer welcome – and that their dangerous, morornic behaviour is no longer acceptable.
Instead, the game will go ahead – and River could end up as South America’s FIFA Club World Cup representative next month.
For a club – whose fans have launched tear gas into an opposition team’s bus – to be given the chance to face off against the world’s best clubs should be unthinkable.
They shouldn’t be allowed to have that kind of platform.
Can you imagine the scenes in Scotland – and beyond – if an Old Firm team’s coach was attacked by fans of the other team?
The clubs would be hammered. The fixture would be a closed doors affair forever more.
By moving the Copa Libertadores decider to Spain, FIFA will think they have imposed a punishment.
But fans will still gain entry, and River could still win the thing.
That’s not a punishment at all.
Unless one is delivered that fits the crime, football – particularly abroad – will continue to be shamed by hooliganism.