Does professional soccer encourage and condone "hooliganism" by its fans?


Buenos Aires, Argentina (CNN) -- Soccer has long been a bloody business in Argentina, but 2010 has proved particularly violent with five deaths linked to the so-called "beautiful game."

Among the dead were two former bosses of hooligan gangs -- known locally as Barra Brava -- associated with clubs in the northern city of Rosario, but the most high-profile was policeman Sergio Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was shot in the head as he tried to separate fighting fans of Estudiantes and Argentinos Juniors in the city of La Plata, according to Telam, the official Argentine government news agency.

A solution has long been sought to end the bloodshed that for years has plagued Argentina's terraces, but when news emerged of a scheme to offer up to 500 of the country's most notorious hooligans free trips to the World Cup in South Africa, it was met with widespread criticism.

When the government was implicated, that criticism turned to disbelief.

The idea was the brainchild of a non-government organization called Hinchadas Unidas Argentinas (Argentine Fans United) who claimed the scheme would reduce violence by bringing fans together.