To Solve Argentina’s Soccer Violence Epidemic, Just Look to Rugby

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Soccer violence in Argentina affects both the professional and amateur levels of the game. A few days ago, an Argentine referee was shot dead after handing player a red card. A month ago, the Copa Ciudad de la Plata final between Estudiantes and Gimnasia was suspended due to a massive, unstoppable shitstorm of a brawl. In an ironic turn of events, it was a friendly game.

How do we find a permanent solution to soccer violence? How about borrowing the concept of the third-half, one of rugby’s most venerable customs? That’s Pueblo Rugby suggestion, a foundation based in the province of Córdoba. The third half is an expression that refers to postmatch socializing with an opposing team. All of the players get together to talk about the game around food and drinks. By doing this, they remember what most soccer players have forgotten – they’re rivals, not enemies. You may have heard the famous saying, “Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman’s game played by beasts.” Nowhere is this more true than in Argentina.

So far, the results of adopting the third half in soccer have been great. Like all education policies, it starts with the young kids playing the game. Leonardo Bigi, the person behind this initiative, says, “Kids start playing at 6 or 7 years old. By the time they are 15, they have gone to many ‘third-halfs.’ This humanizes the game, and it shows that it is not a matter of life or death.” Most amateur leagues in Córdoba, as well as the local government, are backing the effort.

Even professional teams in Córdoba have tried implementing the initiative. It might be time for arch rivals Boca and River Plate to chat over a few beers.