Chile United: Football Fans Fight Back

Football fans from all the teams in Chile feel really bad, because the police are killing us. There is no justice here. There is only one enemy here: capitalism. People have realised that football fans protect them here and that they defend the people from police attacks. Football fans across the world have never been shy about shouting praise for their teams, and insults to their rivals. But they can also be vocal about politics in their own countries. The South American country of Chile is no exception. Since October 2019 massive protests against rightwing president Sebastian Pinera have rocked the country’s elite. Football fans have been central to these protests and have been on the receiving end of the government’s brutal crackdown. In the face of this violence, opposition fans are coming together to fight a new, bigger rival: the government. To understand the football fan fightback in Chile today we need to look at the relationship between football and politics in the country’s recent history. Pinera, motherf…er! You’re a murderer! Just like Pinochet! On the 11th of September 1973, socialist president Salvador Allende was overthrown by a U.S. backed military coup headed by Augusto Pinochet that ruled Chile until 1990. During the dictatorship, Chile’s national stadium – home to the national football team – became synonymous with the Pinochet regime’s cruelty. The stadium was used as a concentration camp with as many as 20,000 men and women reportedly imprisoned inside. Official records state that 41 people were murdered there. Today a section of benches behind the north goal of the stadium is cordoned off as a permanent memorial to the thousands of people who were imprisoned, tortured and murdered there. And a memorial banner reads: A people without memory is a people without future. In Chile they are murdering us. Politicians and police are part of this. They don’t listen to or care about us. Football fans from all the teams in Chile feel really bad, because the police are murdering us. They are murdering us! There is no justice here. On the 28th of January 2020 the police killed 37-year-old Jorge Mora, known as Neco, a fan of arguably the most popular club in Chile, Colo Colo, based in the country’s capital Santiago. We tracked down a friend of Neco, who like him, was part of an organised grouping of antifascist Colo Colo fans who were also strong supporters of the anti-government uprising. The friend agreed to speak to us but due to fears of government repression he asked that we hide his identity. When the social uprising began, football fan groups were the first to organise themselves. The first steps were made to come together and hit the streets to protest as football fans. We decided to protest outside the stadium to publicise our discontent and so that football wouldn’t return. I was with Neco all afternoon. We’d meet to protest outside the stadium and were together while the match was on. We talked about our struggle, how we shouldn’t abandon it until the matches stopped. Those were his words: we have to continue. When the game ended we went back to the stadium, to protest and to deliver the remaining flyers. That’s when the police arrived with much more brutality and killed Neco. The police never stopped their repression so people could help Neco. While he was bleeding out on the ground the police continued throwing their bombs, kept shooting their water cannons. People started to despair because there was no way to get him out. Then a person offered their car and took him to the hospital. And he died. Most likely, he arrived dead at the hospital. That tragic death reignited the mood in the whole country. Following Neco’s death people rose up again across the country. As well as causing mass outrage amongst Chile’s football fans, Neco’s death provided extra impetus for fans to leave aside their historic violent rivalries. We meet in Plaza Dignidad every Friday. There are fans of Colo Colo, University of Chile, Catholic University and all the Santiago-based football teams. Every Friday since the protests began in October 2019 people in Santiago gather in Plaza Dignidad, Dignity Square, formerly known as Plaza Italia. The security forces regularly shoot at protestors with pellet guns, tear gas and water cannons while the protestors dance, throw rocks and point lasers at the police.  People no longer see the football supporter groups as outcasts. Football fans have always been very looked down on and repressed by the police. People were scared of these football fans. Today there is a new understanding. People have realised that football fans protect them here and that they defend the people from police attacks. This social uprising has fostered the union of the people against the elites, a people’s union against police repression which is done in the interests of those elites. In late November 2019 with six league fixtures remaining Chile’s football federation announced it was cancelling the rest of the season due to the anti-government protests that had spilled from the streets into the stadiums. The new football season began in late January 2020. This year the football authorities have wanted to resume normality. They wanted the media to talk about football again. A section of the Colo Colo supporters group, La Garra Blanca, invited us to a rally they were holding near the National Stadium, the venue for their team’s league match later that day. The plan was to convince fellow fans to boycott the game in protest at the violence unleashed on fans and other citizens by the security services. They too asked us to conceal their identity out of fear of what the government could do to them. Today it’s the Colo Colo match against Audax Italiano in Chile’s National Stadium, which is about five blocks in that direction. The intention of Colo Colo fans is not to set foot inside the stadium. The government is killing us, is torturing us. The government wants to use football to silence social protest in order to give an image of normality in the country. The plan of the Colo Colo supporters is to not allow the government to get away with this. Our response is to boycott the national championship and to not go inside the stadium and protest out here on our terms, whilst commemorating the death of Neco. The historic violence of the Pinochet era in society and in football stadiums is very much alive today in Chile. But Neco’s death and the mass protests for democratic reforms have resulted in the country’s football fans coming together like never before. The intensity of the rivalry between fans has eased as they have become key actors in the wider struggle to change Chile. The individualist system created by the Pinochet dictatorship and the governments that have followed, have resulted in people hating each other for trivial thing such as football. There is only one enemy here: capitalism and neoliberalism. And the corrupt leftwing and rightwing politicians who united to sustain this neoliberal system. They aren’t interested in the people. I think the social uprising helped people to realise this, wake up and unite against all this. What has to change is the whole government, and people have to continue fighting. They have to keep fighting. Football isn’t separate from society, it’s part of society. So as long as society continues fighting and protesting, in football we will continue to fight and protest. We must do political work to turn football not into a tool of social alienation but into a platform for social struggle and social transformation. Through football we intend to contribute to this social struggle.

5 thoughts on “Chile United: Football Fans Fight Back

  1. Los barristas son los delincuentes, un día son de izquierda otro día de derecha. Son manejados por el narcotráfico, no trabajan venden drogas. Les gusta el caos. No re representan las movilizaciones de buena fé.

  2. Police departments across the world must be shut down! They're WHITE SUPREMACISTS GROUPS paid by the U.S. GOVERNMENT, RUSSIA, EUROPE,…

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