A Liga MX soccer match between Querétaro and their visiting rivals Atlas ended in a deadly riot on Saturday night.
During the match’s 63rd minute, with Atlas leading 1-0, combative fans in the stands forced observers to flee onto the field. Referee Fernando Guerrero suspended the match as fans trickled onto the pitch, but even that wasn’t enough to restore calm. Guerrero put a permanent end to the game as the fans overtook the field, and the violence grew out of control.
Eventually, the violence spilled outside the arena, where fans were seen beating, dragging bloody bodies, swinging poles and chairs.
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In the aftermath, conflicting reports emerged from the scene. Earlier death tolls of 17 people from TV Azteca’s David Medrano Felix were contradicted by the state of Queretaro’s Civil Protection Coordination authorities, claiming that 22 people were injured, including two critically.
Mikel Arriola, the president of Liga MX, canceled matches for the remainder of the weekend at the request of the players union and vowed there would be “exemplary punishments” for those responsible.
Liga MX is already feigning shock and announcing plans to investigate how two volatile fan bases with a history of committing violence reached this point when security was grossly underprepared. Saturday’s riot wasn’t a completely surprising development. There’s a history of violence between these two clubs that were disregarded. Liga MX is responsible for the outcome of Saturday’s violence through sheer negligence.
Atlas and Querétaro fans came to blows with each other in 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2017. Each instance resulted in riot police intervention, but the clubs seemed content to test fate. After a 2010 brawl in the stands, both clubs took preventative measures to separate home and visiting fans, but those restrictions were relaxed over time. In 2013, Querétaro supporters attacked Atlas supporters by using stones, bottles, and cans as projectiles.
Inevitably, the brutal violence shown in Querétaro will raise questions about Mexico’s readiness to host matches for the 2016 World Cup, which they will jointly host, along with Canada and the U.S.
La Corregidora, where the brawl took place, hosted matches during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Although La Corregidora won’t host any of Mexico’s 10 matches in 2026, Saturday night’s violence was a stain on their top soccer league’s ability to securely stage safe matches between fans from all over the world. Fortunately, the arenas expected to host the World Cup, Stadium Akron in Guadalajara, Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, and Bancomer Stadium in Monterrey should be considerably better prepared.
After each of the past instances of violence, Liga MX, Querétaro, and Atlas failed to step in to implement adequate safety protocols, so the concerns of Commissioner Arriola rings hollow. If Liga MX has any common sense, Querétaro and Atlas shouldn’t play another match for the remainder of the season. Disqualification from the league should also be on the table, and anything less is inviting a future recurrence. It seems extreme, but an example has to be made after 15 years of Liga MX and management for both clubs allowing this unruly behavior between rivals to escalate.