The authorities in Colombia have come under fire for their response to the latest hooligan incident.
By Brian Homewood
The stoning of a team bus left a player in hospital amid calls for firmer action to tackle the growing problem of football violence
Colombia’s football authorities have been criticised for their reaction after Deportivo Cali’s bus was stoned on its way to a match with Millonarios.
Deportivo full-back Juan Guillermo Dominguez was hit by flying glass and taken to hospital when the vehicle was attacked by Millonarios supporters as it approached the Campin stadium in Bogota.
Despite the incident, the game went ahead – much to the anger of Deportivo Cali.
“The business side and all the corruption came first,” said Deportivo goalkeeper Sebastian Blasquez. “All they [the directors] were interested in was the business.
“The match should have been postponed until the player was out of danger. It didn’t occur to anyone that the player could suffer complications which could have put his life in danger. I’m indignant that the match was played. I think it’s the first time I have felt sadness instead of happiness when I’ve been playing a match.”
“The only person who behaved like a gentleman was [Millonarios goalkeeper] Oscar Cordoba, who stood firm in his belief that we shouldn’t have played.
“I felt a mixture of anger, impotence and shame, because we played a match in which the meaning of football was totally lost.”
Former Colombia coach Hernan Dario Gomez, now in charge of Millonarios’s local rivals Santa Fe, also criticised the decision to play.
“In those circumstances, I wouldn’t coach a team,” he said. “It was a very serious aggression but the decision to play the match was even more serious. It was as if they supported the aggression.”
Columnist Gabriel Meluk, writing in El Tiempo, agreed with Gomez. “The game between Millos and Cali should not have been played. What were they waiting for? For him to lose an eye, or for them to kill him?”
As it happened Dominguez was released after treatment for cuts to his face – dangerously close to his eye – and no action was taken against Millonarios.
The perpetrator, 29-year-old William Quinteros, was arrested around one week later after a high-profile police search. However, after publicly apologising, he was released on bail and ordered to attend a hearing with public prosecutors.
Football violence has become a serious problem in Colombia recently and the authorities have so far made little headway in fighting it.
Most clubs are now supported by Argentinian-style “barras bravas” who reportedly get hooliganism training from their counterparts down south.
Hooliganism apart, the start of the new season has been notable for the dismal form of Atletico Nacional, who only two seasons ago completed the double by winning both the Opening and Closing championships.
Former Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez quit after 12 games with Atletico at the bottom of the table. Club president Victor Marulanda also offered his resignation.
“There’s one player in this group, Humberto Mendoza, who I would stand up for but I would get rid of the rest of them,” said Suarez.
“The club deserves respect and… out of dignity, we [Suarez and his staff] have offered our resignation to the president.”
Marulanda responded: “I’m a failure, I don’t have a team which convinces anyone, we’re eliminated and I will speak to the directors about continuing with the team.”
Millonarios – as usual – and Santa Fe were the other two big clubs to struggle. Gomez quit Santa Fe after a home defeat by Quindio but changed his mind after an appeal from his players.