National Police arrested more than 50 people Sunday when organized soccer fan clubs from Alajuela and Cartago came to fisticuffs in the stands, forcing organizers to cancel the game, according to the daily La Nación.
President Laura Chinchilla called the violence “shameful and regrettable” in a Facebook post Monday morning.
According to several news sources, member of “La Doce,” an organized fan club for La Liga soccer team, entered the National Stadium in western San José on Sunday and began attacking people wearing the blue and white colors of the Cartago team. The sports daily Al Día reported that some members of La Doce beat and robbed spectators in the stands.
The number of arrested fans climbed steadily Sunday, from initial reports of as few as 15 to as many as 53 Monday morning, according to an interview with National Police Director Juan José Andrade on Radio ADN.
Andrade avoided taking responsibility for the violence.
The police director said that soccer teams are private, for-profit businesses and are responsible for providing security inside the stadium.
“It’s obvious that the private security officers contracted did not have a plan to respond” to the outbreak of violence, Andrade said, according to La Nación.
Broad Front Party lawmaker and former presidential candidate José María Villalta, who used to belong to La Doce, came down hard on the fan club, saying he left La Doce in 1995 when it became a “violent group.”
Chinchilla criticized the stadium’s private security and the strain on officers to police the private sports event. The president wrote that policing sports events comes at “the detriment of public security,” as officers are taken off the streets to patrol the games.
Public Security Vice Minister Celso Gamboa tweeted that the problem lies in the use of public resources for private events, and that the soccer teams “consent” to the rowdy fan clubs.
El problema es que son recursos públicos resguardando espectáculos privados. Y que los clubes "consientan" a estos grupos
— Celso Gamboa Sánchez (@CelsoGamboaCR) February 16, 2014
“Where is the will of these clubs to harshly apply the law and keep these groups out of the games?” Chinchilla asked.
“I’ve asked the police to procure the videos shot by the press during the incident and put them on the Internet so we can all see the faces of these vandals,” the president said.
In 2013, Costa Rica passed the Prevention and Punishment of Violence at Sporting Events Law, which can ban attackers from attending sporting events for up to four years.
Organizers rescheduled the game between Alajuela and Cartago for 3 p.m. Monday, according to CRHoy.com.