Monday, 23 June 2014

Buenos Aires Football Disaster

23rd June 1968

This day in history...71 killed and 150 injured in a football stampede at gate 12 at El Monumental Stadium, Buenos Aires

Whilst this is a relatively unknown event, it was one of the most devastating catastrophes in Argentine football history. It is remembered as the 'Puerta 12 Tragedy.' The disaster occurred between two local derby teams in Buenos Aires; River Plate and Boca Juniors. The derby is mainly referred to as a Superclásico; 'clásico' deriving from the Spanish word 'derby', and 'Super' in reference to the mass popularity of the two teams. The history of the teams' rivalry helps to understand why the event occurred.

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Puerta 12
Boca or River?
La Boca is a working class dockland area of Buenos Aires, and has origins for both the River and Boca teams. River was founded in 1901 and Boca in 1905. River moved to Núñez, the affluent district, in 1925, and have since carried the nickname, Los Millonarios (The Millionaires). Whilst many social classes support River Plate, they are known to be strongly supported by the upper-classes. In contrast, the Boca Juniors have been known as the working-class club, with many fans coming from the local Italian immigrant community. 

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Boca Juniors (left) and River Plate (right) 1968
The Superclásico began with a friendly match in 1908, which saw Boca winning 2-1. The first official match, played in 1913, saw River winning 2-1. Since then the rivalry has continued and grown. The BBC describes the Superclásico as 'a sea of colourful flowing banners, chanting, dancing and never-ending fireworks.' The fans of both teams are extremely passionate. And as you may have guessed, a lot of matches have ended in violence and fights. The rivalry even goes as far as insulting each teams stadiums. River fans refer Boca fans as los chanchitos (little pigs) because they claim that the stadium smells. El Superclásico even became a topic of diplomatic discussion when the United States Embassy in Buenos Aires released a video on YouTube debating the question of 'Boca or River'. 

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Fans, Fights and Football
Puerta 12 Tragedy
On June 23rd, 1968, the tragedy occurred after a Superclásico match between Boca and River. There is no accurate report as to what happened as there are too many different claims and theories. A 3 year investigation was immediately carried out following the disaster but found no-one guilty. The only harsh facts were the 71 people who were killed and the 150 who were injured. The majority of the dead were teenagers and young adults, with the average age of the victims at just 19 years old. 

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Lost shoes and possessions form the stampede (left) and the stairs at Puerta 12 (right)

  • Some claim that the disaster occurred after Boca fans threw burning River flags from the upper tiers of the stadium, and thus causing a stampede in the lower tier.
  • Others claim that it happened after River fans arrived in the Boca section, causing the stampede. 
  • Another account is that puerta (gate) 12 was locked/would not open at the time, and that the fans at the back could not hear the ones at the front telling them to stop coming in.
  • William Kent, River's former president, claimed that the police were to blame. He believed they began repressing Boca fans after they had thrown urine at them from the stands - some witnesses claim that the turnstiles to the exit were blocked by an iron pole
At the end of the 1968 season, the 68 football clubs in the Argentine Football Association collected 100,000 pesos (£7226.53) for the families of the deceased. Whilst this doesn't seem much, it was a huge step for a nation with such bitterness and rivalry in terms of football. A documentary film was released in 2008, investigating the event. There is also a small plaque as a memorial for the disaster. Other than this, there is very little publicity or media attention and the families of the deceased have received little in terms of money and support.

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Memorial Plaque
Image retrieved from Google.
Will remove at owner's request.

Documentary Film


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