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Argentine Soccer Club Wanted to Implant Microchips in Fans, Until They Revolted

The surgically implanted microchip was designed to curb violence among the sport's more... passionate supporters.

by Meaghan Beatley
Oct 21 2016, 11:00am

Soccer violence in the stands in Belgrade in February 2016. Image: Fotosr52 / Shutterstock.com

How do you solve a problem like blood-thirsty football hooligans? According to one Buenos Aires-based football club, just stick microchips in spectators' arms and scan the bad apples away.

Back in April, first division club CA Tigre proposed surgically implanting microchips—or "passion tickets," as they called them—into fans' bodies to expedite their access to the stadium and curb violence during games. The initiative was rejected after a brief trial period, CA Tigre informed Motherboard, and though the club wouldn't say why, we expect public outrage had something to do with it.

"Passion ticket allows fans to enter the stadium without anything else, just their passion for their team, and allows the club to maintain a trustworthy level of control over fans," CA Tigre tweeted at the time to explain the initiative.

Concerned social media users responded with the following:

And:

...which translates to, "We are the first cyborg team."

To my surprise, most of the Argentine football fans I interviewed on the subject weren't horrified by the Orwellian initiative and instead saw it as a practical way to keep stadium violence in check.

Normally, in order to attend games in Argentina, locals must be registered with their club of choice and be official fans, or socios, of said team. This consists of paying a monthly fee, typically around 200 pesos, and presenting a ticket book, or carnet, when entering the stadium.

But as Sebi, a long-time CA Tigre fan, informed me, registered socios often lend their carnets to unregistered supporters looking to get into games, meaning that spectators who've been flagged for violent behavior often still manage to get in.

He thought microchips could be a solution, in due time.

"Just like 20 years ago, having a cell phone wasn't a regular thing yet, today it's not normal to implant microchips into your body," he told me. He added that he thinks the technology should first be tried out in another corner of the world before making its way to Argentina and CA Tigre, because "a community football club like Tigre doesn't have the [technology] needed to manage such a grandiose initiative."

Paco, a registered CA Tigre fan for nine years, told me he thought the microchip was a "strange, innovative, and original" idea, and though he wouldn't have done it himself—the giant needle turns him off—he does think it could solve the barras problem.

The majority of football violence is instigated by barra bravas, hooligan gangs typically from the slums who effectively set the mood during games. Thanks to their antics, spectators from visiting teams were banned from attending games played in rivals' stadiums back in 2013.

While Boca Juniors fan Damiàn acknowledged the microchip's 1984 implications, he still stood by the initiative. "I think that if the reason behind the chip only has to do with ensuring safety in the stadiums (setting aside conspiracy theories that they want to control us, etc. etc.), it's a good idea," he said.

Let's Save Football (Salvemos al Fútbol), a local organization dedicated to finding solutions to football violence, counts 312 deaths since 1922. Causes range from shots being fired to knife fights to skulls being crushed by stones to fans falling off bleachers, sometimes in droves.

Juan Baez, a San Lorenzo fan (along with the Pope and Viggo Mortensen, incidentally), told me he's seen an increase in violence.

"Honestly, in these last 25 years, there's been a lot of violence. I've seen police running after socios on horseback or shooting rubber bullets into crowds, I've seen it among [rival] fans, and I've seen it among members of the same club," he told me.

"Police have been on the receiving end of a lot of the violence. But they've also been the cause of it," he added.

Earlier this year, Argentina's recently inaugurated administration created a national database of football spectators, largely designed to weed out undesirable elements. This was hardly the first time such a measure was proposed: back in 2015, a similar proposal by the name of AFA Plus, but ultimately, it never saw the light of day.

The new regulations imposed by the national database require fans to present ID along with their ticket books, among other measures.

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