The tragic death of Emanuel Ortega, a San Martin de Burzaco forward who died of injuries sustained in a game on Thursday, will quiet the roar of professional soccer stadiums this weekend in Argentina.
Argentine Football Association President Luis Segura said that it “was agreed to by all leaders” that games will be postponed in honor of the 21-year-old.
Ortega was pushed by an opposing player from Juventud Unida into a concrete wall holding up a fence outside of the boundary line. The Los Angeles Times reported that the shove was not believed to be intentional.
“One shouldn’t play, out of respect for the magnitude of the tragedy,” Segura lamented. “I don’t think anyone is in the mood to think about a football match.”
The concrete wall is only one meter from the touchline, reported The Independent. On top of the wall is a security fence to prevent fans from throwing stones at the players. Segura wouldn’t comment on the safety questions prompted by the wall’s proximity to the field.
“Today is not the time to think about taking [safety] measures,” Segura stated. “We’ll see afterward.”
Soccer games in Argentina provide a significant amount of violence both on the field and in the stands. Last year, 15 deaths were attributed to soccer-related violence in the country. In December, according to the BBC, an Argentinean soccer player was murdered in front of his family after a game had been suspended for fans brawling on the field.
ESPN reported on Thursday that Argentinean football team River Plate players were sprayed with a substance, partially blinding them and causing severe irritation. A TV broadcast caught an image of a fan placing his hand through the flexible tunnel that protects players entering the field. The images suggested he was spraying the River Plate squad with an irritant, possibly pepper spray.
The Argentine Football Association has long be excoriated for not doing enough to quell the violence endemic in Argentina football. The AFA claims that it’s a societal problem.