When it comes to Argentinian soccer, no story of extortion, corruption, and murder is too outlandish to believe. Case in point: on Tuesday, Ariel “Colo” Luna, a member of the barra brava for River Plate until his conviction for murder in 2011, unleashed some major dirt from the prison he has called home for the last 5 years. Speaking with Súper Mitre Deportivo, Luna alleged that he was paid 20,000 Euros by former River Plate president Jose Maria Aguilar in order to confess to the murder of Gonzalo Acro back in August of 2007, an event that symbolically put an end to and infamous period of soccer-related violence called “la batalla de los quinchos.” Luna also alleged that Aguilar helped smuggle him to Barcelona shortly after the crime, where he was allegedly told by club executives that he would be a made man if he filmed a video confession for the murder of Acro.
Not only is Luna accusing Aguilar of paying for his silence, he also fingered another former River president, Daniel Passarella, as being a key component in the violence instigated by the barra. “He filled the pockets of the barra brava” said Luna, who also stated that he would not speak to a judge about his own case, but rather use that time to dish on Passarella. If it seems like Luna might just be pushing blame away from himself for his alleged crime, his accusations are not outside of the realm of believability for Argentinian soccer, which has been plagued with turmoil from its soccer hooligans-slash-gangsters since the 1950s. After all, Luna’s bombshell prison interview comes just a month after Bolita Niponi, a famous Boca Juniors barra brava, was arrested in connection to a murder committed in 1994.
The violence from the barra bravas is so prevalent that it is one of the most recognizable aspects of Argentinian soccer worldwide; just last year, The Fader published an exposé on Rosario’s barra-led criminal underground, centered on Newell’s Old Boys (Lionel Messi’s childhood team). For their part, the Argentinian government has declared violence in soccer a national emergency, even setting up task forces to combat what some see as a ruinous quality of the soccer-obsessed country’s sporting infrastructure. Regardless of whether Luna’s accusations are true or not, what’s clear is that the barra bravas are a very real and very dangerous part of being a soccer fan in Argentina.