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Stadiums and society in 21st century Buenos Aires

Stadiums and society in 21st century Buenos Aires
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   1 Dr. Christopher GaffneyDr. Christopher GaffneyDr. Christopher GaffneyDr. Christopher Gaffney Soccer and Society Soccer and Society Soccer and Society Soccer and Society  ,,,, vol 10, issue 2vol 10, issue 2vol 10, issue 2vol 10, issue 2, 2009, p. , 2009, p. , 2009, p. , 2009, p. 160160160160----182182182182. . . . All rights reserved.  All rights reserved.  All rights reserved.  All rights reserved. Stadiums and Society in 21Stadiums and Society in 21Stadiums and Society in 21Stadiums and Society in 21 stststst  Century Buenos AiresCentury Buenos AiresCentury Buenos AiresCentury Buenos Aires  Abstract: Greater Buenos Aires (GBA) has sixty-nine 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 complicates 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 article explores the connections between soccer, society, conflict and urban governance in Argentina’s largest city. Key words: Greater Buenos Aires, soccer stadiums, urban space, actors, conflict, IntroductionIntroductionIntroductionIntroduction 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, political 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, individual identities and the production of cultural norms. Thus, by entering into Argentine 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’ sixty-nine stadiums (maps 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 1). The national leagues have been repeatedly suspended in recent years due to security concerns; local and national governments are imposing   2 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 relationships between these actors impede the development of solutions to the ever present and elemental violence. This violence is historically situated in team, class, labor, ethnic and geographic antagonisms and is exacerbated by the increasing polarization of Argentine society along socio-economic lines. These forces, combined with historically situated identities, rapidly transform stadiums and their surrounding urban spaces on game day and create social environments that are highly charged and frequently violent. By examining the ways in which stadiums contribute to the organization, transformation and contestation of urban space this article explores the intersection of multiple 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 A brief history of soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires A brief history of soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires A brief history of soccer stadiums in Buenos Aires The British introduced modern sports to Argentina in the latter decades of the 19 th  century. [1] Commensurate with the first wave of industrial development the approximately 40,000 ex-patriate British in  Argentina founded private schools and 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 neighborhood 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 ex-patriates. [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 laborers or industrial settings where British managers played with and against their Argentine employees.   3 Globally, Argentina was just behind England and Scotland in developing organized soccer leagues and we can be fairly certain that the 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 sporting 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 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 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 19 th  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 languages and cultures as they tried to make sense of their new and rapidly changing urban environment. The space of the neighborhood frequently helped to organize these identities, marking boundaries in a complex urban world. Within the neighborhood context, soccer teams sprang from informal associations of young men. The most important determinant of team longevity was the appropriation of a space to play. As the city expanded, there were many open field that were leveled 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 government 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 sporting 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 neighborhood specific identities. These evolving 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   4 people and spaces. In addition to Porteños (port dwellers), many teams took the name  Argentinos   in order to distinguish themselves from recent immigrants. Defensores and Unidos   were also prevalent names and implied defense of the locale and a united front, respectively. Many teams also took the name of their neighborhood. 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 that were in direct competition within 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 20 th  century. As with many stadium cultures, Buenos Aires’ stadiums became associated with powerful political figures, hosted ritualized conflict 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), the city’s stadiums were the epicenter of national sporting culture and served to shape identities and meanings for Argentines of all classes at local, urban, national and international scales. The transformation of urban spaceThe transformation of urban spaceThe transformation of urban spaceThe 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 game day stadiums energize urban districts, filling the streets and clogging transportation arteries. The effect of game-day urban space around stadiums in Buenos Aires is particularly noticeable, radically transforming the feel and texture of “ordinary” streets. This is especially true in Buenos Aires 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 thousands 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 bused 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   5 visiting fans are always given a fifteen minute head start after the final whistle.  Approaching or leaving the stadium, urban space is transformed through barricades, 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, part of local cultural norms and know ledges. 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 paper. I will instead turn to the main actors in the scene.  Actors Actors Actors 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 find at the 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 kickoff. 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
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