Most Mexican football fans have now seen the video footage of players and officials fleeing the field of play Saturday evening at Estadio Corona in Torreon. It was the first time the complicated battle between drug cartels and authorities visibly entered the world of Mexican football. The sound of gunshots halted play between Santos Laguna and Monarcas Morelia in the 40th minute, and sent players and fans fleeing for safety. If there is a positive, the cause of the confrontation had absolutely nothing to with the football match. The incident actually occurred outside of the stadium when narcos in a pick-up truck accidently drove up to an army checkpoint, producing a brief firefight.
The big questions now concern the negative impact of this event. What are some of the potential repercussions for the Mexican game that was riding a wave of success following Chicharito’s success, the Gold Cup, the U17s World Cup win and the U20s finishing third place in their recent World Cup?
1) Less people will go to games
One of the best things about going to a Mexican football stadium is the diversity of the fans. Whole families head to the games with kids in tow. Women make up a large percentage of attendees. Teenagers can afford to go with their friends - something that certainly has been lost in, say, the English Premier League. Opposition fans even sit side by side with no segregation.
The safety of the stadium has now been rocked. Nightclubs in many Mexican cities, especially in the north, are a lot less busy these days due to high profile attacks inside and outside them. A similar thing could happen in football.
2) Players will not come
With its high wages, Mexican football has pulled some of South America’s best talents to its domestic league. Chilean Humberto Suazo and Ecuadorian Christian Benitez are the highest profile current examples. Benitez cited the situation in Torreon as one of the reasons he moved from Santos to America (Mexico City) in June. Two players left Guadalajara clubs for foreign ones because of extortion threats in late 2010. Then there is the sad case of Salvador Cabañas, shot in the head in a Mexico City nightclub in January 2010. There will come a point where these quality players who add so much to the league simply decide it isn’t worth the risk.
3) Players will leave
It is generally agreed that Mexico has an embarrassment of youth talent. European clubs are fighting over various players from the U17 and U20 national squads. The general consensus in Mexico has been that these players should stay and gain experience in the Primera Division before moving to the other side of the pond. The youngsters may push that little bit more forcefully after witnessing the proximity of the shootout on Saturday to a football stadium.
4) Impact on Santos Laguna
"We will not reduce our efforts to bring happiness to families and to contribute to society," said Santos President Alejandro Irarragorri, who has been widely praised for his role in speaking to the crowd inside the stadium after the shooting had died down.
Admirable words but Santos could now face a really hard time. The first tasks are to keep going, rearrange the game against Morelia, and play the next home game against Chivas on September 10 without any further incidents.
In the medium term, it will be difficult to attract players, fans are unlikely to attend the stadium in the same numbers, and one or two players may think about leaving. It is not just the events on Saturday but a series of violent acts in Torreon and the state of Coahuila as cartels battle it out for control of drug routes.
Captain Oswaldo Sanchez, who went to protect his family as bullets were being fired, said he is not scared of the situation. Others might be.
5) People power
Football is part of the fabric of Mexican life. The shooting outside the Estadio Corona was widely denounced on social networking websites. Many were appalled at the scenes of parents carrying their kids over the pitch and people crying. Hopefully there will be a real effort on the part of society in general, and authorities, to keep this kind of incident far outside the world of football.