Mexico soccer riot: Latest fallout after violence between Queretaro, Atlas supporters causes Liga MX suspension

The first arrests are expected in the wake of the violent March 5 riot that took place during a Mexican league match in Queretaro, as league owners meet to determine sanctions and other repercussions following one of the darkest days in the sport.

State police in Queretaro are searching for 26 individuals identified in a brawl that erupted among supporters in the stands during a Liga MX match between Queretaro and Atlas. Those fights spilled onto the field and caused the suspension of the match from Mexico’s top division. 

The scenes from the riot at the Estadio Corregidora in Queretaro were disturbing, graphic and violent, and they have led to outrage across the Mexican soccer community and calls for accountability and change. As of March 7, there were no official reports of deaths from the incidents which left 26 hospitalized with six in serious condition.

Liga MX owners will meet on March 8 in an extraordinary session called by league president Mikel Arriola, who has promised to mete out exemplary punishment and reassess the relationship of clubs with their supporters groups. He has discussed the potential introduction of a new fan registration system and other technology to assist with crowd control and security.

The future of the Queretaro club — also known as the Gallos Blancos (White Roosters) — and its owners, and their potential expulsion from Liga MX is another of the topics expected to be discussed.

What happened in the Mexico soccer riot?

According to reports, barriers meant to separate the supporters groups were breached and the fighting began in the stands, causing some fans to invade the field to escape it. But the violence followed them, and the Queretaro-Atlas match was eventually suspended in the 63rd minute.

The video below shows how the match descended into chaos, with a glaring absence of security personnel in the stands or on the pitch.

Atlas, the defending Mexican league champion, was winning 1-0 at the time, but the competition quickly became a secondary concern with scenes of families running for safety and bodies laying motionless in the wake of the fighting.

While there has been speculation on social media about possible lives lost — some fans who were at the stadium have subsequently gone public about fatalities they either heard about or allegedly witnessed — there are still no official reports of deaths as of March 7.

There is a history of incidents between the Queretaro and Atlas supporter groups, with past clashes as recent as 2013, 2010 and 2007, according to reports. Mexican daily Milenio published a story outlining recent issues involving the supporters groups, adding that they are « considered two of the most violent » in Mexican soccer.

That’s why the security shortcomings at the Corregidora Stadium were immediately singled out as an area of concern by Liga MX president Arriola: « There will be exemplary punishment for those responsible for the absence of security in the stadium. »

It’s notable that the Queretaro State Police posted a tweet during the match in which they confirmed their presence at the stadium and noted (translated from Spanish) that « the first half is taking place in a tranquil environment and with a good atmosphere in the stands. » That state would devolve shortly after.

Were there deaths after the Mexico riot?

Despite the multitude of graphic videos shared on social media showing motionless bodies strewn across the Corregidora Stadium grounds, the Queretaro State Civil Protection body informed that there were no deaths to report on the night the violence transpired.

A total of 26 individuals required medical attention, and three days after the incidents 20 were released with six still hospitalized: five in serious condition and one in a life-threatening state.

Liga MX has stuck by the official numbers released by the state of Queretaro, including the zero fatalities, but personal accounts from fans who were in the stadium tell a different story. 

One video that surfaced the day after the violence featured an emotionally distraught Atlas fan who claimed her friend, who she named as Arturo Buenrostro, died in the stadium attacks. She added that she was informed there were 32 deaths, though her claims have not been substantiated. When confronted with this information, the Liga MX president continued to point to the official state count.

In another video interview, a 16-year-old Atlas fan claimed one of his close friends died at the Corregidora Stadium, but he declined to share his name « out of respect. » He also indicated there were others who perished « assassinated, » accusing stadium security of allowing Queretaro fans into the Atlas visiting supporter section from both sides to entrap them.

« Instead of helping us, [the police] opened the gates so they [the Queretaro fans] could hit us, » he said, sporting a bandage around his head he said was the result of being struck by police.

He accused the stadium security of working in tandem with the Queretaro supporters who orchestrated the attack. He went on to claim that while Atlas fans were thoroughly searched before entering the stadium, the Queretaro fans were carrying weapons, including a pistol he witnessed.

Yet another fan who claimed to be at the stadium said that he hoped there were no deaths at the stadium, but « those of us who were there, saw how the fans wound up … you saw them in pools of blood, not moving. We really hope there were no fatal victims, but it was horrible. »

Where was security at Queretaro stadium?

Arriola’s comments about the « absence of security » and the eyewitness allegations called into question Queretaro club and municipal officials as to their responsibility for preventing the violence that took place. The investigations are expected to uncover the causes of the security failures.

The Queretaro state governor, Mauricio Kuri, promised an in-depth investigation, but he also pointed the finger at the club. « The Gallos [Queretaro] ownership group and institutions will have to respond for the events, » Kuri said on March 5.

Video clips shared on social media showed security personnel who were not actively responding to the chaos unfolding around them: 

The day after the incidents, the Queretaro public safety secretary Miguel Angel Contreras said that “the private security firm did not take all the personnel that it needed to take to cover the event. »

State officials admitted that the public police presence at the stadium was not sufficient, but that stadium security is the sole responsibility of the private sector, in this case the club.

Queretaro club president Gabriel Solares said in a March 6 press conference that there were 600 security personnel at the game based on existing rules and protocols that determine the security count. « They were overcome not because of the number of security staff, but because of the [violent] actions, » Solares commented.

The comments by Solares, who took over Queretaro as part of a consortium in June 2020, came a day after the match. It was the Queretaro team Twitter account and the club’s sporting director Adolfo Rios who were the first to issue statements on the day of the attacks. « No one deserves to experience a nightmare like this, » read Rios’s post (as translated from Spanish).

Rios was also captured on video apologizing to Atlas supporters: « This is not Mexico. This is not what we want for our country. An apology, this hurts us a lot. »

Solares said the club has subsequently made it a priority to « eliminate the relationship with any type of club supporters group. » 

Meanwhile, Queretaro governor Kuri promised the violent actors « I’m going to find you » in a press conference he held on March 6. 

« It was a massacre. It was planned. It was premeditated. It was obvious that they did what they wanted to do with us, » said an Atlas fan in a TV interview. « They [security] opened the door for them. When we ran out, we asked the police for protection and they didn’t support us in any moment. They were off to the side and they were observing us. »

Liga MX taking action

In the hours after the incidents, Liga MX followed up with a statement confirming the opening of an investigation, the activation of the league’s Disciplinary Commission to begin the sanctioning process, and the pursuit of criminal complaints as necessary.

Despite calls to immediately suspend play around the league, the Liga MX matches scheduled for later Saturday night moved forward as planned. But after their conclusion, Liga MX announced the suspension of all men’s and women’s professional matches on the slate through at least March 8.

Arriola traveled to Queretaro the next day and in a press conference announced that visiting supporters will no longer be permitted to travel to watch their teams play on the road in Liga MX.

An emergency Liga MX owners meeting set for March 8 is expected to produce additional new measures, potentially changing the relationship between clubs and their supporters groups. Arriola has mentioned digital fan registration and the use of technology to better track and monitor supporters moving forward.

He did not rule out the possibility that Queretaro — the team is also popularly known as ‘Gallos Blancos’ or ‘White Roosters’ — can be expelled from the league, though he indicated that the Disciplinary Commission and owners will be following the letter of the league’s rules and regulations to determine the appropriate sanctions in their purview.

Until the investigations are complete, the club’s Corregidora Stadium has been shut down and is banned from hosting any soccer events for the time being. Meanwhile, the Queretaro secretary of state Guadalupe Murguia said she would be reviewing the existing stadium loan agreement between the state and soccer club in the case there has been a failure to comply with the contract. In that case, the agreement could be voided and the stadium turned back over to state control.

Regional governing body CONCACAF has called for « strong football sanctions, » while world governing body FIFA encouraged local authorities to « bring swift justice to those responsible. » There is no indication that the violence could harm Mexico’s ability to co-host 2026 World Cup matches together with the USA and Canada.

Graphic photos and videos on social media

WARNING: The videos and photos distributed on social media, some of which are shared below, are violent and graphic in nature and will be disturbing to some.

Social media has been inundated with videos and photos from the stadium of motionless bodies on the ground being mercilessly kicked, others stripped of their clothes, and an already-bloodied fan taking a beating. The images and video are hard to watch.

But their existence will also likely push officials to take extreme measures to ensure Liga MX does not see another incident of this nature again.

The following two videos showed potential security breaches that Liga MX president Arriola indicated gave rise to the violence:

Some of the images showed fans running across the field seeking safety. One man was shown protecting another Atlas fan. There were suggestions on social media that it may have been a father protecting his son.

Mexican publication Esto had reporters on site at the Corregidora Stadium and they took photos and video of the events:

Radio Formula and Milenio reporter Joaquin Lopez-Doriga documented much of the day’s violence on his Twitter page.

But there were also stories of fans helping others.

The day after the violence, one Atlas fan took to social media to thank a young Queretaro supporter for giving her the jersey off his back so she could get out of the stadium safely. She was hoping Twitter could help identify the individual in order that she could return his autographed Queretaro jersey.

And although one fan was pointing the finger at Queretaro coach Hernan Cristante for apparently suggesting that fans take the violence outside the stadium to avoid a suspension, he was also hailed for allowing fans to seek shelter in the club’s locker room.

Mexican international Edson Alvarez, who plays for Ajax in the Netherlands, wore a shirt for his team’s weekend match that read « No more violence. » He also shared a message on Instagram in which he commented how the violence witnessed was « nothing more than a reflection of what we are as a society. »

Laisser un commentaire