What began as a ‘friendly’ football match between prison inmates ended in deadly shootout, not penalty kicks due to a full-time draw, but terrible gun battle that left 16 people dead. Players had fired gun shots over a disagreement about a tackle.
The match took place in Cieneguillas jail, in the northern state of Zacatecas, Mexico, on New Year’s Eve, and resulted in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country’s penal system since President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took power in 2018.
This football match was actually a good plan to curb violence in the prison but it ended doing the exact opposite. For over a decade, Cieneguillas, a medium-security prison in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, has been home to hundreds of dangerous criminals representing no less than six of Mexico’s main drug cartels. In an attempt to relieve the pressure of the rivalries between these criminal organizations, the prison leadership authorized a soccer game between teams representing Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, on New Year’s Eve but the worst happened.
Players included gangsters from the Gulf and Zetas Cartels; two of the most powerful rival crime syndicates in Mexico.
The game is said to have turned violent when a dispute erupted over a challenge in the penalty box, after which firearms were drawn. The federal forces and the National Guard arrived to break up the fight, but it reportedly took around three hours to stop the bloodbath, MailOnline reports.
Twenty ambulances arrived at the scene, and terrified visitors were evacuated from the prison during the violent outburst, which killed a total of 16 people; 15 at the scene and one later in hospital.
Five other inmates were also injured in the fight, though they are said to be in a stable condition.
Ismael Camberos Hernández, secretary of Public Security, said a total of four firearms were confiscated after the fight.
A search also uncovered ’77 bags of marijuana, 18 packages of rice paper, 17 knives, a saw, a 9mm cartridge, three pairs of scissors, nine phones, phone chargers, a phone battery, a memory disk, two hammers, a bottle of liquor and a can of beer jug.’
In an interview with Mexican radio program Aristegui, Camberos said officials believe the contraband may have been brought into the prison during visiting hours on New Year’s Eve, as a search conducted just days before found no weapons, as Reuters reports.
The government has launched an investigation to determine who was responsible for the incident and to find out how the weapons entered the prison.
Cieneguillas prison holds members of five criminal groups, including the Gulf and Zetas Cartels. After the fight broke out, 120 inmates were relocated in an attempt to prevent further violence.
Just two days after the bloody soccer match, Cieneguillas was once again rocked by violence as a member of the Gulf Cartel was murdered by his own gang, allegedly for treason. The prison has long been seen as a red flag in Mexico’s penitentiary system, but authorities are struggling to keep the peace among the over 1,000 members inmates, including many members of rival criminal organizations.