Sun, Sep 22, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Argentina tests anti-hooligan card system for fans

Reuters, BUENOS AIRES

Fans going to today’s match between Colon and San Lorenzo in Santa Fe will be guinea pigs for a cutting-edge biometrics system aimed at combating hooliganism that has been blamed for 70 deaths in the past decade.

The Argentine Football Association’s (AFA) ambitious new system, known as “AFA-Plus,” has been a year in the making and is designed to drastically reduce soccer-related violence by prohibiting known hooligans from entering stadiums and is also meant to reduce ticket touting and fake ticket sales.

Anyone wishing to enter a first division stadium, from fans to technical staff to police, will first need to register in one of the club’s assigned offices.

Once registered, they will be given a magnetic identity card that contains their personal information, a photograph and digital fingerprints.

AFA spokesman Ernesto Cherquis Bialo said the measures were meant to weed out violent offenders.

“The objective is to kick out the violent people. We want to get rid of the business of the barrabravas,” Cherquis said, using the local term for soccer hooligans.

“We want there to be better revenue for the clubs, we want families to go back to soccer games and, more than anything, we want order in soccer and not fear,” he said.

Fans have been lining up to register ahead of the implementation of the new security measures expected to be rolled out later this season.

Most said they understood the importance of the extra security measures, but voiced doubts the system will keep out those it is designed to bar from entering the clubs.

“It’s good on the one hand, but on the other, not so much, because for me, the barrabravas who are the main problem for safety at soccer games, I think they’re still going to get in,” fan Facundo Salomon said.

Fellow supporter Raul Luoni echoed the sentiment when he said: “The main problem is the [soccer] directors who know who shouldn’t get in [to games], but they get in all the same and I don’t think they will ever fix that,” he said.

Cherquis said rolling the system out at the Colon-San Lorenzo match will give the AFA a chance to learn how the system works and time to iron out all the kinks before going live.

“We’re going to hear all the grievances there, all the delays. Someone is going to say to the referee, ‘delay the game because there are a ton of people outside.’ Any of this could happen, but also with this example we can better implement the system,” he said.

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