Costa Rica seeks to reduce soccer violence this season

A soccer match between Costa Rica’s Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Club Sport Cartaginés was suspended on Feb. 16 because of fighting between the teams’ barras (soccer hooligans). Fifty-four fans were arrested because of the fracas, according to officials. (Courtesy Manuel Sancho / ISH)

A soccer match between Costa Rica’s Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Club Sport Cartaginés was suspended on Feb. 16 because of fighting between the teams’ barras (soccer hooligans). Fifty-four fans were arrested because of the fracas, according to officials. (Courtesy Manuel Sancho / ISH)

By Mario Garita 

July 23rd, 2014 (ISH) Costa Rica’s Soccer Clubs Federation (UNAFUT) and the Public Safety Ministry are joining efforts to prevent violence both inside and outside stadiums during the Winter League, which begins on Aug. 16.

Deportivo Saprissa, Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Club Sport Herediano, the three clubs with the largest fan bases in the country, already have developed strategies to prevent fights.

Alajuelense and Herediano will monitor the access of barras (soccer hooligans) while Deportivo Saprissa is testing an automated fingerprint identification system similar to the one used by the Argentine Soccer Association (AFA).

“We want to be aware of all people entering the southern stands, where the barras stay,” José Pablo García, Saprissa’s media relations officer, said. “Only those who are registered will be able to access that area. This way, if problems or improper behavior arise, those responsible will be banned.”

These measures are aligned with the recently approved Law for the Prevention and Penalizing of Violence at Sporting Events, which came into effect in February.

The new law establishes the creation of the Security Information System at Sporting Events (SISED) and a photographic record of fans. The information can be used by law enforcement and private security companies to prevent fans reported as troublemakers from accessing sporting events, according to the Public Safety Ministry.

Saprissa’s records already have 2,000 names, and the number is expected to increase when the Winter League matches kick off in August, García said.

“We have five fingerprint readers and cameras monitoring the entire stadium, totaling an investment of US$100,000,” García said.

Liga Deportiva Alajuelense will take similar measures in their stadiums, but the club didn’t reveal when it will start their implementation.

Starting this season, fans also will count on reporting centers set up by the Public Safety Ministry inside all the stadiums in the event they are subjected to any incident that puts their safety at risk.

“These reporting centers will each have a law enforcement attorney and a statistical analyst,” Freddy Guillén, head Law Enforcement Plans and Operations, said.

The new law was created after a Feb.16 match between Liga Deportiva Alajuelense and Club Sport Cartaginés was suspended because of clashes between the barras of both teams. Fifty-four fans were arrested because of the fracas, according to officials.

Violence rates in the country increase with every soccer match, according to the Public Safety Ministry.

“When there is a local game, some people are enjoying it and celebrating, but those on the losing end become very frustrated, which can lead to violence, especially when you add alcohol consumption to the mix,” Alejandra Mora, executive president of the National Women’s Institute, said.

During Costa Rica’s matches in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 9-1-1 system reported an increase in calls of up to 200%. After the game against Greece on June 29, there were 800 reports of violence and public disorder.

“Alcohol plays a major role here,” José Carlos Chinchillas, a sociologist at Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional, said. “When people consume alcohol or any other type of drug, they stop following social norms and, if we add to this a state of collective euphoria, the way in which we relate to others gets out of control.”

The National Women’s Institute launched in June a series of campaigns that aim to eliminate sports-related violence, in particular those cases involving women and children. The campaigns encourage the public to report incidents confidentially by dialing 9-1-1.

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    • Ken Morris

      An irony is that not long ago the Sala IV ruled that residents bothered by the noise of the soccer games had to live with it, since according to expert testimony by psychologists, loud soccer games are good for the “mental health” of the people. I was floored by the rationale for this decision, since I seriously doubt that psychologists know enough to render clinical judgments about soccer’s affects on collective mental health, but for the fun of it would like to see someone else bring the same case and use the expert testimony of psychologists from the National Women’s Institute to argue that soccer games incite violence. Although I suspect that this argument is more rot than real too, it strikes me as stronger than the silly one about soccer games being good for collective mental health.

    • Eric Saferstein

      The most critical issue affecting stadium security remains unresolved.

      People have a fundamental right to know…
      that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone…
      it’s almost certainly a hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.

      LEGITIMATE emergency evac orders are delivered via the public address system.

      Learn more: http://agsaf.org