A rascally soccer hooligan leader from Argentina who defied authorities and attended four World Cup games before being deported has promised he’ll be at the tournament’s final between Germany and Argentina this Sunday — no matter what the cops have to say about it.
The case of Pablo "Bebote" Alvarez illustrates the prominence enjoyed in Argentina by barras bravas, secretive yet highly public organized councils of cheerleaders for local teams. The barras are often compared to the hooligans of Western Europe, but wield immense power in their communities, in a country where football is called a national religion.
These groups are blamed for violent incidents at football stadiums across the country, and their leaders are sometimes linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. Perhaps most tellingly, barras bravas are also frequently cozy with politicians and union leaders, enjoying a kind of lavish popular influence and impunity that is uniquely Argentinian.
"I am going to go to the final and I am going to return the way I entered. Just like the first time, free, walking, swimming, or however."
Before the World Cup, Argentina’s federal security agency sent its Brazilian counterparts a list of some 2,100 Argentine hooligans with records of involvement in violent incidents at football stadiums. Brazil promised it would bar these Argentine citizens from entering World Cup matches and would deport any of the hinchas, as they are also known, that are identified.
Although he has no charges pending against him, Alvarez remains on the country’s list of dangerous barra brava leaders. Brazilian authorities detained him last Saturday at the Mané Garrincha National Stadium in Brasilia during the Argentina vs. Belgium match.
Alvarez, the current leader of the Club Atlético Independiente barra brava in Buenos Aires, was caught in the game’s second half. He was disguised as a Brazil fan, wearing a Brazilian Flamengo team jersey, as well as green hair-dye and face-paint.
A video surfaced of surveillance footage that zeroes in on "Bebote" in the stands of the Brasilia stadium during the match. Authorities are seen leading him toward an exit. Soon after, Alvarez was deported to Buenos Aires. Footage shows the barra brava leader scurrying through the Ezeiza International Airport terminal to escape cameras.
“Bebote” had previously mocked authorities by posting photos on Facebook of him attending three other World Cup games in Brazil before his arrest at the Belgium match. For the Brazil vs. Switzerland game, he painted the Swiss red and white cross on his face in order to sneak in unnoticed.
After his arrest and deportation, Alvarez gave a press conference to reporters in which he wore a fake mustache and red baseball cap.
VICE News caught up with Alvarez once he was back in Buenos Aires, where he usually only speaks to news media with his face covered. He sat down with me at his lawyer's office in the the exclusive Puerto Madero district of Buenos Aires, unmasked. He was candid and clear about his position.
"I went to the World Cup to show the world that that list is a lie and I am not violent," Alvarez said.
"Bebote" also bears the distinction of having been deported from one other World Cup, in 2010 in South Africa.
"When the police tried to detain me, I felt like it was the end of the World Cup, like they were scoring a goal. But also, that I was going home winning — 3 to 1," he said, referring to his attendance at three World Cup matches without being detected.
He told VICE News it was a guarantee that he will be returning to Brazil this weekend for the final against Germany, defying both Argentine and Brazilian authorities if he manages to do it.
"I am going to go to the final and I am going to return the way I entered. Just like the first time, free, walking, swimming, or however,” Alvarez said. “I am showing up with 60 other pibes [dudes]."
Photo via BeboteAlvarez.com.