The Anatomy of a Soccer Riot

By Jed Herrmann

They don’t just happen at random. Let us explore how soccer (football) riots take shape using the recent riot at Estadio Mario Camposeco as a guide, (well, it may not qualify as a soccer riot, but it makes a catchier title than “disturbance” and the use of tear gas has to count for something on the riot index). In this case, it was the contributing factors of hope, revenge, frustration, profound disappointment, and poor stadium construction that precipitated the incident.

First, the context of the season itself: after an up and down campaign that included a solitary road victory, a long stretch of nonexistent offense, the resignation of a coach, injuries, and suspensions, the Superchivos made the playoffs. Not only did they manage to make the playoffs, but through a series of events far too complicated to describe here, they garnered the number two position in the Liga Nacional- thus raising hope for Xela’s hometown team.

Second, let us consider the team’s specific opponent: Communicaciones from Guatemala City, Xelaju’s top rival. After many defeats at the hands of the Cremas in playoff series past, Xela had a chance to exact revenge during the semifinal round of the playoffs.

Third, the specific circumstances of the match are relevant: after losing the away match of the two game playoff series, 3-0, the Superchivos had a very uphill battle- needing to score at least 3 goals. As such, entering the game there was a sense of frustration from the previous loss.  But if there was any chance of a miracle comeback then Estadio Mario Camposeco (where the Chivos were unbeatable this season) was the place.

As the trademark song Luna de Xelaju rang out after the team’s second goal in the first 15 minutes of the game, an exulting fan pointed at the full moon over the stadium and the unlikely victory seemed within reach. Thus, fourth, profound disappointment overtook the stadium when the Cremas scored a goal in the second half, essentially eliminating any chance of a Superchivo victory. It was the inability of a number of fans to effectively deal with this disappointment that set the stage for the riot. Well that and the laissez faire policy towards fireworks in the stadium- great when shot off to celebrate an exciting goal, they aren’t so great when thrown into the opposing team’s bench.

Fifth, poor stadium construction played a role as fans began throwing dislodged chunks of the stadium at the Crema’s supporters section. As Crema fans fled the stadium and Xelaju fans followed, police in riot gear proceeded to fire teargas canisters to clear the crowd.

Then the crowds dispersed with no reported injuries, thus it was much more of an aberrational incident than an actual soccer riot, this article’s headline notwithstanding. Though calling it a riot makes for a more dramatic end to the Superchivos season….

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