This is not the first time Estadio Alfonso Lastras has been the scene of violence and mayhem.
Atlético San Luis claimed the Ascenso MX trophy after a thrilling overtime triumph over Diego Maradona’s Dorados de Sinaloa. Unfortunately, much of the news since then has focused on the post-game scuffle involving Maradona and local fans who were taunting him.
On the field, San Luis overcame a 1-0 first-leg loss and a 2-1 deficit (3-1 aggregate) with less than 25 minutes remaining. A Diego Barbosa own-goal was followed by an Ian González score in minute 75 and the game went into overtime.
Leandro Torres knocked in the winner during the first extra period and San Luis held on to claim the title, much to the delight of the rowdy fans inside the Alfonso Lastras Stadium.
Maradona had been forced to watch the game from a box seat after receiving a one-game suspension for insulting the referee after the match in Sinaloa. As he made his way down to the locker room, a group of fans hurled insults and mocked him. He reacted, as Diego is prone to react.
After the game, Sinaloa management complained about the lack of security surrounding the box seating they were assigned (and also claimed they were disrespected because they were given a cramped box area with poor sight-lines). There was also only token security for Diego and his contingent as they tried to get to the Dorados locker room.
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Naturally, Maradona has been condemned in the press for his violent reaction and the Mexican Soccer Federation (FMF) has opened disciplinary proceedings. But the FMF has so far failed to undertake any kind of investigation into the stadium authorities and Atlético San Luis officials for failing to provide adequate security.
We all know how volatile and unpredictable Maradona can be (who can forget the double-fingered salute Diego delivered during this summer’s World Cup in Russia). No doubt, the San Luis fans were trying to provoke a reaction. Plenty of fans were ready with their smart phones to shoot video of the confrontation.
By the time, Maradona scuffled with the fans, he had already been subjected to more than 2 hours of insults and harassment in the team box area. Little security was provided for the Dorados group and there is plenty of video footage of the obviously game-long verbal attacks that were taking place. The home team did nothing to ensure the protection of its guests.
In his Tuesday column in El Universal Deportes, Gerardo Velázquez de León takes the FMF to task for failing to take any steps to hold San Luis team and stadium authorities accountable. The fall-out should be embarrassing to Mexican soccer officials. This is especially true in the context of the distressful scenes we witnessed in Buenos Aires when River Plate fans attacked the Boca Juniors bus.
Velázquez de León also assigns some blame to Dorados management because they certainly know Diego’s temperament (he has been suspended twice by league officials for insulting referees, he has been rude and unruly in press conferences, and his physical and mental wellness have been questioned). Despite his on-field success, his actions have, in some cases, been mortifying.
The FMF’s failure to open an investigation into the failings of San Luis officials (thus far) is also mysterious considering the recent history of violence at the Estadio Alfonso Lastras. In February 2016, gun shots and explosions were heard outside the stadium. Fans still inside the stadium were herded onto the pitch until the authorities had handled the situation. In addition, 16 Necaxa fans were injured, allegedly after being attacked by one of the San Luis fan clubs.
A year earlier an explosive was lobbed at fans just outside the stadium before a game against the Leones Negros and in 2006 a young fan lost three fingers when fireworks exploded in his hand while inside the stadium during a match.
I attended a San Luis-Atlante match a decade ago and I confess to being quite fearful as explosions and fireworks were launched from the fan club (evidently an accepted “tradition”) just behind the goalposts in the same area of the field where my seat was. There was no visible security presence and I genuinely felt more frightened than I did while wearing a Necaxa jersey at a Pumas match.
Violence is violence, and there is no place for it on or off the field at a soccer match. FMF officials are being delinquent if they don’t address the problems evident at Estadio Alfonso Lastras on Sunday night.