Colombia’s first World Cup victory in 16 years left tears of joy in the eyes of many a fan. But the 3-0 thrashing of Greece on Saturday also sparked tragedy at home.
Over the weekend, 10 people died in Colombia during festivities that followed the match.
Most of the fatalities occurred in Bogota, where World Cup celebrations infused with alcohol went late into the night.
In Colombia’s capital officials recorded 3,000 street fights (about three times the normal for a weekend in Bogota), which left a toll of nine fatalities and 15 injured during the 24 hours that followed the Colombia vs. Greece game.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro published the grim stats on his twitter account and complained about the behavior of some Colombia fans.
“This is not the way to do things,” Petro said.
La celebración del mundial dejó 3.000 riñas, 15 heridos, 9 muertos. Así no es. Mañana consejo para plan del jueves
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 15, 2014
Petro has come up with a special security plan for the Colombia vs. Ivory Coast game on Thursday.
Officials will set up roadblocks to monitor caravans of fans that usually drive through the city after Colombia wins matches, and there will also be more patrolling in the city’s most violent areas.
But the city government also plans to decrease violence by giving Bogota’s low income residents somewhere where they can watch the match.
On Saturday, thousands of fans watched the Colombia vs Greece match in large screens set up in parks in middle class and wealthy areas of the city, like the ritzy 93rd street park.
This time around, mayor Petro plans to install five giant screens in public spaces in the poor southern half of the city, where violence was greatest after the Greece match.
“The large screens worked well,” Petro told Semana magazine. “Almost 50,000 people watched the game at those screens, and there weren’t any incidents to lament, so we will extend those screens to areas where we had more [criminal] incidents, and we’ll also include musical and cultural events.”
NOT THE FIRST TIME
Big soccer victories have previously lead to out of control celebrations in Colombia.
When Colombia qualified to the 1994 World Cup, with a historic 5-0 victory over Argentina, spontaneous street parties broke out around the country.
On that occasion officials tallied 76 deaths and 912 injuries, mostly from traffic accidents involving drunk drivers and street fights that broke out during the celebrations.
As Colombia’s team poises itself for more World Cup success, officials from the national government are also keeping an eye on the problem.
“We have to learn to celebrate in peace,” Minister of the Interior Aurelio Iragorri said on Caracol Radio. “What will happen if Colombia does really well?”