Soccer fans attending the South American Football Confederation’s (CONMEBOL) recent championship game in Peru faced more stringent security standards designed to prevent violence. Local authorities created a long list of banned items that included, among other things, sunglasses and hats.
Not allowing fans to wear sunglasses and hats may seem unreasonable, but there is actually a valid reason behind it. The ban is no different than a similar ban that exists at most retail banks here in the U.S. Authorities do not want sunglasses and hats worn because they make it too easy to conceal a person’s identity.
In the case of a retail bank, authorities want each customer’s face clearly visible to both bank tellers and security cameras. In the case of a public gathering, like a soccer game, authorities want faces uncovered just in case there is a need to identify troublemakers. Thus, sunglasses and hats are not acceptable.
Violence at Soccer Games
While the CONMEBOL ban of sunglasses and hats might be a bit unusual for professional sports, the root problem prompting the ban is not. League officials are legitimately concerned about violence among fans of opposing teams, something that happens all too frequently in the soccer world.
Just last year, the second leg of the league’s home-and-away final was moved to Madrid after fans of one team attacked the team bus of the other, damaging it and injuring a number of players. This year’s final is a single match event that was originally planned for Santiago, Chile. But unrest in that city prompted leaders to move the game to Lima.
Out in Full Force
News reports suggest that Peruvian police were out in force to maintain order at the game. In addition to banning hats, sunglasses, and a variety of other objects, police subjected all fans in attendance to inspections and breathalyzer tests. The inspections were designed to identify alcohol, drugs, and things that could be used as weapons. The breathalyzer tests were conducted to identify those who were already drunk on arrival at the stadium. Those positively identified were not allowed in.
Peruvian officials say that the standards set in place for the game are not unique. They are part of existing law normally applied to sporting events.
Sunglasses and Individual Identity
Getting back to the hats and sunglasses, Salt Lake City’s Olympic Eyewear says it should be no surprise that the two items were banned. Sunglasses, in particular, are something people are known to wear when they want to conceal their identity. They are quite effective for such purposes.
A good pair of sunglasses can cover from above the eyebrows to well below the eyes. They can make an otherwise recognizable face very difficult to recognize. Sunglasses can also be intimidating. Imagine getting into an altercation with someone wearing a dark pair of shades and a hat or hood on the head. Suddenly you find yourself looking at a faceless face.
It would be interesting to know if Peruvian police turned away fans wearing prescription lenses that automatically darken and lighten in response to natural sunlight. For games that take place at night, it would not make any difference, but during a daylight contest, such glasses could be problematic. It is not clear how Peruvian law addresses such situations.
At any rate, fans attending the CONMEBOL championship game in Peru were told to leave their sunglasses and hats at home. The ban was part of a broad effort by authorities to prevent any violence. Maybe similar bans will start appearing across the soccer world in the coming months and years.