Spanish fan death draws calls to tackle violent 'ultras'
01 December 2014, 14:59
Madrid - The death of a Deportivo La Coruna fan in clashes between radical groups before their match at Atletico Madrid on Sunday has prompted calls for more to be done to combat so-called "ultras".
Francisco Javier Romero Taboada, 43, had to be pulled out of the freezing Manzanares river near Atletico's Calderon stadium and suffered cardiac arrest, hypothermia and head injuries.
He died shortly after 2 pm local time (1300 GMT) after efforts to revive him failed.
Trouble had flared around 9 am in what appeared to be an organised street battle between ultras tied to Atletico, Deportivo and Madrid-based clubs Rayo Vallecano and Alcorcon.
Police named the groups as Riazor Blues (Deportivo), Frente Atletico, Bukaneros (Rayo) and Alkor Hooligans (Alcorcon).
The ultras, who typically have extreme right-wing political views, have long been part of the Spanish soccer landscape and most top-flight clubs treat them with varying degrees of tolerance.
Barcelona and Real Madrid are among those to have banned their ultras, called 'Boixos Nois' and 'Ultras Sur' respectively, from their stadiums, while members of the Frente Atletico are still tolerated in the Calderon.
"Football has wanted to look the other way for a long time now when faced with the cancer of the ultras," Jose Samano wrote in daily El Pais on Monday.
"Their violence does not have its roots in football but it is in football where they have found refuge and approval."
As Marca sports daily noted, Sunday's tragedy was not the first death linked to Atletico's ultras.
In 1998, a Real Sociedad fan died after he was attacked near the Calderon and a Frente Atletico member was sentenced to 17 years in jail for the crime.
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"Spanish football must expel these brutes before it is too late," Marca wrote in an editorial on Monday.
Writing in El Mundo, soccer columnist Manuel Jabois described the relationship between clubs and ultras as like that between a family and a wayward child.
"The presence of violent groups in stadiums has a Freudian element that explains a lot of things in Spain," Jabois wrote.
"It has to do with a generalised cowardice when it comes to ridding yourself of something undesirable who loves you or wants the same as you."
Spain's government anti-violence commission is meeting on Monday to discuss Sunday's tragic events.