ColombiaÃ¢ÂÂs maddest derbyÃ¢ÂÂ¦we were there
Football hostilities Ã¢ÂÂ on and off the pitch - in the Colombian city of Cali reached a new low on Saturday night as a mass riot during the heated derby match between America de Cali and Deportivo Cali forced the gameÃ¢ÂÂs abandonment.
Around 60 people were injured in the brawl at the Pascual Guerrero Stadium, ignited when members of the America supporters group Ã¢ÂÂ the Baron Rojo Sur Ã¢ÂÂ began fighting amongst themselves with their side trailing 1-0 to hated rivals Deportivo. Sadly, it came as no surprise to FourFourTwo. Saturday eveningÃ¢ÂÂs violence is merely the latest addition to a long list of clashes between the two teams, something we witnessed at first-hand on a visit to Cali last summer. (The full story appears in the July 2007 issue)It had taken four months of delicate negotiations with the Frente Radical Verdiblanco, one of Deportivo CaliÃ¢ÂÂs largest organised hooligan groups, before gaining permission to accompany them into battle against near-neighbours America. And when our man eventually did join up with the all-singing, all-dancing, alcohol-fuelled entourage on their way to the stadium he narrowly avoided a beating from the baton-wielding riot police as tempers flared between both sets of fans.Colombia is still a country at war after 40 years of government forces, left-wing guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitaries waging a three-way fight for power, killing thousands in the process. And with Cali set in the heart of the Norte de Valley cartel, the largest drug-trafficking organisation in the world, it is no shock the cityÃ¢ÂÂs two football clubs have grown to despise each other.The first encounter between the sides in 1931 was intended to be a friendly but was really anything but. After finishing top of the second division, America wished to test themselves against a top-flight team and arranged a match with Deportivo. But after having two goals disallowed for offside, America published flyers denouncing the Ã¢ÂÂirregularitiesÃ¢ÂÂ of the match and were subsequently suspended for a year. On November 17 1982, the clubsÃ¢ÂÂ hatred came to a devastating head after drawing 3-3 at the Pascual Guerrero. Reports suggest drunken fans urinated on rival fans below causing a stampede, which injured 163 people and killed 24.And it was only around 18-months ago when 22-year-old Stevenson Galeano Rivera was shot through the head during a clash between the two groups.FourFourTwoÃ¢ÂÂs visit to Cali lived up to the fixtureÃ¢ÂÂs fiery billing, with Deportivo Cali winning 2-0, but the match exploded in the latter stages with three players sent off in a five-minute spell as the red-mist descended yet again.SaturdayÃ¢ÂÂs events mark yet another sorry tale for a football nation riddled with conflict and carnage, and with groups who state they: Ã¢ÂÂmodel ourselves on the ultras of Italy and the hooligans of England,Ã¢ÂÂ and include films The Football Factory and Green Street as their Ã¢ÂÂbiblesÃ¢ÂÂ little is likely to change any time soon.