Grondona denies connection with hooligans
Julio Grondona, the president of the Argentine Football Association, denied before members of congress on Thursday that he was responsible for hooligan groups being on a flight to South Africa with Argentina's World Cup team.
Grondona said the commercial flight four months ago on South African Airways was open to anyone. He told member of Argentina's lower house that he had nothing to do with dozens of hooligans who caught the flight.
''If they are not in jail and they have passports, it is not my problem nor a problem of AFA,'' Grondona told members of the congressional committee.
In Argentina, virtually no weekend goes by without some football-related violence. The country has a reputation for some of the worst hooligans, a problem that dates to the first hooligan-related death in 1924. More than 200 lives have been lost since then.
The hooligan groups - known as ''barras bravas'' - are a force in Argentina, running bars, restaurants and parking areas near stadiums. Some hooligan groups are also used by local clubs as ushers or security guards.
Grondona said in 32 years as the president of AFA he had never negotiated with hooligans.
Grondona did acknowledge he met on Aug. 31 with a hooligan delegation, which was proposing it be used as ushers at matches. Grondona said that plan was quickly rejected by a union that represents ushers.
''The subject of hooligans goes way back,'' Grondona told committee members. He said violence connected with the group had decreased since 2006.
Despite his claim, Grondona and other Argentine officials have been criticized for ignoring the violence and overlooking the close ties the hooligan groups have with top clubs such as River Plate and Boca Juniors.
Strict policing, new stadiums and a trend toward upscale fans have largely eliminated the problem in England, traditionally the worst offender in Europe.