Barra brava

Last updated

Members of barras bravas are scattered between the flags that they deploy. In the picture, barra brava of Club Atletico Nueva Chicago, from Argentina, in the middle of the crowd. Estadio Nueva Chicago.jpg
Members of barras bravas are scattered between the flags that they deploy. In the picture, barra brava of Club Atlético Nueva Chicago, from Argentina, in the middle of the crowd.

Barra brava (fierce gang) is the name of organized supporters' groups of football teams in Latin America, analogous to British hooligans in providing fanatical support to their clubs in stadiums and provoking violence against rival fans as well as against the police.


Actions such as exhibition of choreographies (like throwing smoke bombs, firecrackers, confetti and balloons and displaying giant flags that cover entire stands, or part of them, before the match's start) to welcome the team when it goes out to the pitch; waving and displaying of flags, banners and umbrellas; and coordination of chants (that accompany playing bass drums and trumpets and end up being sung by part or the rest of their team's crowd in the stadium while jumping or applauding) during the whole match, are characteristic of their fervent behavior, whose purpose is to encourage their team while intimidating referees and rival fans and players, for which they also provoke violence.

They also look to attack rival fans (especially rival barras bravas), which leads to fights with them (most of the time outside of stadiums before or after matches, but sometimes during them in the stands), and defend the rest of their team' spectators from rival attacks (especially in away matches, where normally they are outnumbered by home fans) and police repression.

'Reception' is the name that football fans from some countries give to the choreography that the crowds exhibit in the stadiums for welcoming their teams when they go out to the pitch. In the picture, fans of Club Atletico Banfield, from Argentina, displaying a giant flag a few minutes before a match. Hinchada Banfield.jpg
'Reception' is the name that football fans from some countries give to the choreography that the crowds exhibit in the stadiums for welcoming their teams when they go out to the pitch. In the picture, fans of Club Atlético Banfield, from Argentina, displaying a giant flag a few minutes before a match.

These groups originated in Argentina in the 1950s and spread throughout the rest of Latin America. They are similar to hooligan firms (from United Kingdom), torcidas organizadas (from Brazil) and ultras (originally from Italy but spread to the most part of Europe and Asia, Australia and North Africa).


During the 1920s in Argentina, irregular groups of fervent fans spontaneously began to appear at football matches. These groups were denominated as barras by the media, a term that in Rioplatense Spanish slang is equivalent to the term gang, but in its original meaning (not necessarily associated to crime), that is 'an informal group of people (usually friends) who meet frequently and usually do common activities'. Their actions were limited to stadiums during home matches because they couldn't follow (at least the whole members) their teams to other cities very often, neither was violence provocation their objective, as violence arose spontaneously due to frustration caused by bad results of their team or as a way to influence the match through intimidation of rival players and referees with insults, throwing objects and occasionally entering onto the pitch to assault them. Sometimes they also attacked rival fans (usually barras also) who used the same methods against their team. At the end of this decade, a few newspapers described one of this groups as a barra "brava" (Spanish for fierce), appearing the words barra brava together for the first time, but not yet like a term.

One of those groups, named La barra de la Goma ("The barra of the rubber") by the press, appeared in 1927 and supported San Lorenzo de Almagro. The nickname comes from the rubber of bike inner tubes (filled with sand, and tied with wire at the ends) that this group used in some occasions to attack rival fans. Sometimes they would also throw objects at the players of rival teams to bother them when they should intervene in the game.

The Barras brava section of the stadium is recognizable for their flags, a characteristic unrivaled by other areas of the stadium has more quantity or density of such. In the picture, La Banda de Fierro is an organized supporter group of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata. Fotodela22.jpg
The Barras brava section of the stadium is recognizable for their flags, a characteristic unrivaled by other areas of the stadium has more quantity or density of such. In the picture, La Banda de Fierro is an organized supporter group of Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata.

The barras became a traditional part of the Argentinian football crowds and evolved until, in the mid-1950s, they began receiving funding from football clubs to attend all the away matches. While intimidation towards referees and rival players and supporters was previously spontaneous, from that moment on it would be their main objective (along with encouraging their team). Another objective came to be defending the rest of spectators and players of their club from the attacks of rival fans (especially in away matches), and police repression, which increased fights and riots, that occurred more frequently before and after the matches outside of stadiums (although many also occurred on the terraces during the games, sometimes leading to their suspension). Thus, they became the first organized, violence-centered supporters' groups of football fans in the world (which later appeared as hooligan firms in United Kingdom, ultras in Italy and torcidas organizadas in Brazil).

Members of Independiente's barra brava with umbrellas and bass drums in 1960. Barra brava Independiente.jpg
Members of Independiente's barra brava with umbrellas and bass drums in 1960.

Argentine journalist Amílcar Romero stated that, before the appearance of such groups, when a team played away, it was intimidated by home fans. Barras bravas were a response to this pressure, so each club started to had its own barra brava, financed by the club leadership. These groups were given tickets and paid travel to the stadiums, and access to these benefits were controlled by the group's main members. To obtain prestige, the member had to be violent.

In Argentine football, it was customary that, if you played away, you were pressured inexorably. Although it was not about barras bravas as we know them today. Home fans pressured you and, police, if not looking away, also pressured you. That had to be compensated with a theory that in the next decade (the 1950s) was rife: to every operating group with a mystical ability to produce violence, the only way to counter it is with another minority group, with as much or more mystique to produce violence.

Amílcar Romero [1]

In 1958, media has begun to notice the existence of barras bravas after the riots during a match between Vélez Sarsfield and River Plate (at José Amalfitani Stadium), at which 18-year-old bystander Alberto Mario Linker was killed by police (he was accidentally hit in the head by a tear gas grenade thrown at point-blank range from a grenade launcher) when cops tried to disperse River Plate fans who were causing unrest in a terrace located behind one of the goals. Police and rioters were criticized by the media, and newspaper La Razón mentioned the existence of barras fuertes (strong gangs) in Argentine football that were already known by many people, differentiating them for the first time from the traditional barras as being more organized, hierarchical, and coordinated, as observed among River Plate' rioters on that occasion.

Crowd of Club Deportivo 1o de Mayo (team that usually plays in one of the lowest divisions of Argentine football), from Chajari, in the 1990s with its barra brava in the center (composed by a few tens of members in that moment). La 12 del decano.jpg
Crowd of Club Deportivo 1º de Mayo (team that usually plays in one of the lowest divisions of Argentine football), from Chajarí, in the 1990s with its barra brava in the center (composed by a few tens of members in that moment).

Barra brava is the currently term appeared in Argentine media in the 1960s, but became popular in the 1980s. Until the early 1990s, barra brava members in Argentina rejected that term (many even today) for considering it pejorative, and prefer being denominated as fanbase/crowd's guides (largely because if a supporter group it's identified as a defined group of people that is involved in illegal acts, the Argentine justice can judge the members as participants of an illicit association, a legal figure that hardens the penalties).

Although there were many fights and riots carried out by fans since the beginnings of Argentine football, Argentinian players, club leaders, and police (with the first registered death caused by violence in 1923), the death of Alberto Mario Linker signaled the beginning of an era of habituation to violence. During the following decades, riots and deaths increased at the same time that barras bravas organized and multiplied.

According to some studies, Argentina has the most dangerous organized supporters' groups in the world. [2] [3] Through August 2012 Argentine football has experienced more than 200 deaths related to hooliganism.[ citation needed ] Since 2013, all visiting fans were banned from matches of the first division. [4]


These groups deploy and wave flags (that in Argentine football slang are called trapos -cloths-), banners and umbrellas (with their team's uniforms), and use musical instruments (such as drums and, since the mid-2000s, trumpets) to accompany their chants. They occupy terraces where viewers must stand, while in all-seater stadiums (rare in Argentina), barras bravas also remain standing throughout the match. The most characteristic flags are shaped like giant strips several meters in length (called trapos largos -long cloths- or tirantes -suspenders-), that are deployed from the top of the terrace to the bottom. Each group usually also has a banner with its name.

Traditionally, many members (usually important ones) stand upon the crush barriers that are placed in terraces to prevent crushing. In order to not fall from there, they hold on from a "suspender" (this was the purpose for making these flags shaped like strips), the body of someone else that is by his side and sustained to the flag, or the hand of some supporter that is standing below (in the floor).

They start and coordinate most of the chants, wave the most important flags, and always are located in the center of the terrace that they occupy. [5] Until the group enters onto the terrace (usually a few minutes before or sometimes after the match starting), the center is not occupied by the crowd (even if the terrace it is almost filled). It is left empty to show respect for the place of the barra brava.

Originally these groups were not very numerous or powerful. Over the years, this changed to the point of cases where the barra brava decided who would be the club's chairman. Since the 1980s and 1990s, hooliganism has grown and some groups engaged in illegal activities such as extorting money from club leadership, players and hawkers that work at the stadium and surroundings, sell tickets (that are given by club leaders) to matches on the black market, [6] charge for parking in the vicinity of the stadium, etc. Many members also steal (participating in burglaries, larcenies and robberies, sometimes even being part of criminal organizations) or sell drugs as a way to obtain money for travels (club leaders don't pay the travel for the whole group when the destination is too far), the making of flags or buying elements (balloons, confetti, pyrotechnics, etc.) used in the team's receptions on the pitch. They often provide services to political and union leaders who hire them as agitator groups (during rallies and mass meetings, that in Argentina traditionally have people chanting like football crowds, playing drums and even shooting firecrackers), goon squads (clashing with supporters of other political parties, unions or police during demonstrations, protests, rallies and strikes), bodyguards, etc.

They are funded also by club leadership, which may give salaries to some members or even a percentage of the profits. Also, when the stadium of some club is used for a non-football event (like concerts), usually the club's barra brava members are employed as security guards to take care of the facilities.

La Pandilla (Velez Sarsfield's barra brava) located in the center of the main terrace of Jose Amalfitani Stadium (from Buenos Aires) with its "suspenders". Buenos Aires - Estadio Jose Amalfitani (Velez Sarsfield).jpg
La Pandilla (Vélez Sarsfield's barra brava) located in the center of the main terrace of José Amalfitani Stadium (from Buenos Aires) with its "suspenders".

In Argentina, since the 2000s, a large percentage of deaths related to football were related to internal disputes within barras bravas, emerging subgroups into it that sometimes even had it own names.

The size of a barra brava is generally related to the level of the club's popularity. However, some clubs have big supporters' groups without being very popular (this usually occurs when the club has, at least, a relatively high popularity in a high populated working class zone of an urban area). Group sizes range from a dozen of members in very small clubs, to more than a thousand in important ones (groups with several hundred of members or more started to appear in the 1980s -before that decade such groups weren't so big-), all of them with a hierarchical structure that gets stronger and more complex when the group's size is bigger. There are also many small clubs (with very few fans) that don't have a barra brava.

See also

Related Research Articles

Football chant

A football chant or terrace chant is a song or chant usually sung at association football matches by fans. Football chant is an expression of collective identity, most often used by fans to express their pride in the team or encourage the home team, and they may be sung to celebrate a particular player or manager. Fans may also use football chants to slight the opposition, and many fans sing songs about their club rivals, even when they are not playing them. Sometimes the chants are spontaneous reactions to events on the pitch.

Association football culture Cultural aspect in football

Association football culture refers to the cultural aspects surrounding the game of association football. As the sport is global, the culture of the game is diverse, with varying degrees of overlap and distinctiveness in each country. In many countries, football has ingrained itself into the national culture, and parts of life may revolve around it. Many countries have daily football newspapers, as well as football magazines. Football players, especially in the top levels of the game, have become role models.

Ultras Type of sports fan

Ultras are a type of association football fans who are renowned for their fanatical support. The term originated in Italy but it is used worldwide to describe predominantly organised fans of association football teams. The behavioural tendency of ultras groups includes their use of flares, vocal support in large groups and the displaying of banners at football stadiums, all of which are designed to create an atmosphere which encourages their own team and intimidates the opposing players and their supporters. The frequent use of elaborate displays in stadiums is also common.

Football hooliganism Disorderly, violent or destructive behaviour perpetrated by spectators at association football events

Football hooliganism or soccer hooliganism is disorderly, violent or destructive behaviour perpetrated by spectators at association football events. Football hooliganism normally involves conflict between gangs, in English known as football firms, formed to intimidate and attack supporters of other teams. Other English-language terms commonly used in connection with hooligan firms include "army", "boys", "bods", "casuals", and "crew". Certain clubs have long-standing rivalries with other clubs and hooliganism associated with matches between them is likely to be more severe.

Torcida organizada

Torcidas organizadas are formal associations of football fans in Brazil in the same vein as barras bravas in Brazil itself and the rest of Latin America, hooligan firms in United Kingdom and ultras in the rest of Europe, Asia, Australia and North Africa.

Los de Abajo is the official supporters group of Universidad de Chile. They are one of the biggest groups of supporters in Chile.It is the team that takes the most people to the stadium in Chile.

The Millwall Bushwackers are the most notorious football firm associated with Millwall Football Club. The club and fans of Millwall have a historic association with football hooliganism, which came to prevalence in the 1970s and 1980s with a firm known originally as F-Troop, eventually becoming more widely known as the Millwall Bushwackers, who were one of the most notorious hooligan gangs in England. On five occasions The Den was closed by the Football Association and the club has received numerous fines for crowd disorder. Millwall's hooligans are regarded by their rivals as amongst the stiffest competition, with Manchester United hooligan Colin Blaney describing them as being within the 'top four' firms in his autobiography 'Undesirables' and West Ham hooligan Cass Pennant featuring them on his Top Boys TV YouTube channel, on which this fearsome reputation for violence was described. Additionally, Millwall Bushwackers were heavily affiliated with far-right political party National Front during their respective peak in the 1980s.

The MIGs are a football hooligan "firm" associated with the English football club Luton Town. Originally formed in the 1980s, it is now run by Howard Glover, Noah Walters, Harry Walker, Ben and Tom P, and just a note for the reader Steve Worboys was never a mig.

The Real Football Factories International is a documentary style program about football hooliganism across the world. The Real Football Factories was the first series, where presenter and actor Danny Dyer travelled the UK, meeting some of the more notorious football firms. In this spin-off series, Dyer goes international, meeting firms from across the globe. Dyer played the main character of Tommy Johnson, a main member of a fictional Chelsea firm in the 2004 film The Football Factory.

The Suicide Squad was an association football hooligan firm linked to Burnley Football Club. The self-imposed title is derived from previous behaviour at away games where the single-minded involvement in violence against overwhelming odds could be described as suicidal. The name became synonymous with the group during the early 1980s.

Football hooliganism in Poland first developed as a recognised phenomenon in the 1970s, and has continued since then with numerous recognised hooligan firms and large-scale fights. Until 1997, the number of related incidents rose, according to Przemysław Piotrowski of Jagiellonian University. The problem of hooliganism related to football has been compared to what he described as the dark days of football hooliganism in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. Hooliganism in Poland is comparable in its scale to what notoriously used to happen in England, but no longer does. Many Polish football clubs have hooligan firms associated with them.

Supporters groups

Supporters' groups or supporters' clubs are independent fan clubs or campaign groups in sport, mostly association football.


The F-side is a Dutch football hooligan group associated with AFC Ajax. The name came from the stand in Ajax' former stadium De Meer Vak F.

La Barra Del Rojo is the barra brava of the Club Atlético Independiente. They are unusual in Argentina in that they do not have a nickname. It is considered as the largest and strongest barra brava in Argentina. The existence of this group has been publicly known since the 1950s. Besides attending Independiente matches, since 1982, the core members of the group attend the national team's World Cups. They also attended some times the Copa América.

Los Borrachos del Tablón is the barra brava of the Club Atlético River Plate. It is one of the scariest barra brava groups in Argentina.

The 2000 UEFA Cup Final Riots, also known as the Battle of Copenhagen, were a series of riots in City Hall Square, Copenhagen, Denmark between fans of English football team Arsenal and Turkish team Galatasaray around the 2000 UEFA Cup Final on 17 May 2000. Four people were stabbed in the scuffles, which also involved fans from other clubs and were viewed by the media as part of a retaliation for the killing of two Leeds United fans by Galatasaray supporters the month before.

Football hooliganism in the United Kingdom

Beginning in at least the 1960s, the United Kingdom gained a reputation worldwide for football hooliganism; the phenomenon was often dubbed the British or English Disease. However, since the 1980s and well into the 1990s the UK government has led a widescale crackdown on football related violence. While football hooliganism has been a growing concern in some continental European countries in recent years, British football fans now tend to have a better reputation abroad. Although reports of British football hooliganism still surface, the instances now tend to occur at pre-arranged locations rather than at the matches themselves.


The VAK410 was a Dutch Ultras group associated with AFC Ajax. The name comes from the name of their initial stand in Ajax's home stadium, the Amsterdam Arena.

Guerreiros do Almirante is the barra brava of Vasco da Gama. They are commonly known as Loucos da Saída 3, because of their localization in São Januário bleachers, and A Barra Mais Louca, because of their passion, cheering unconditionally.

UEFA Euro 2016 riots

The UEFA Euro 2016 football championships in France saw several recorded instances of football hooliganism and related violence between fans, both at the venues where matches took place, and in cities near the participating stadiums. The violence started immediately before the tournament began, and involved clashes between several countries. Some of the rioting came from established gangs and football hooligan organisations, which deliberately intended to provoke violence. They clashed with riot police who controlled the crowds using tear gas and a water cannon.


  1. "Las barras aparecen con la industrialización del fútbol" [Barras appears with industrialization of football]. Página/12. 13 July 2003.
  2. Magallón, Enrique López (10 October 2007). "Los hooligans más peligrosos del mundo están en Argentina" [The most dangerous hooligans in the world are in Argentina]. Deutsche Welle . Retrieved 24 November 2014.
  3. User, Super. "About Us". Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  4. "Argentina bans football away fans". BBC News. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  5. Kelly, Annie (20 August 2011). "The barra bravas: the violent Argentinian gangs controlling football". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 17 July 2017.