RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Gabriel Herrera has set up a walk-up Argentine consular office out of a blue and white van parked along Rio's famed Copacabana Beach.
He heads the embassy's legal and consular section in the capital Brasilia. While on the road, he's available for Argentines who need that kind of help — and he's sure to find some as 50,000 stream into Rio this weekend for Sunday's World Cup match at the Maracana against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He'd prefer routine stuff like lost passports and stolen phones. But it could get more treacherous if members of Argentina's infamous hooligan gangs — known in Spanish as "Barras Bravas" — make it to town.
Says Herrera: "We are expecting the worst, and hoping for the best."
Argentina vs. Brazil is among football's most famous rivalries, and the proximity means Argentina's blue and white striped shirts are nearly as prevalent as Brazil's yellow and green.
Argentine visitors could top 100,000 for the last match in Group F on June 25 against Nigeria in the southern city of Porto Alegre, just a short drive from Argentina. Big numbers are also expected for the second game against Iran in Belo Horizonte.
"Having only easy problems would be good," Herrera said. "People have been walking by asking for tickets, which we don't have. So far, that is probably the top request."
At the 2014 World Cup, Brazil and Argentina could only meet in the July 13 final.
"A victory over Brazil in the final — in Brazil — would be an impossible dream," Herrera said.
Argentina — with England — has some of the world's most passionate fans. It also has some of the world's worst football hooligans. Violence is endemic in the Argentine league with showdowns between rival gangs sometimes leading to shootings, stabbings and deaths.
Continue reading this story on the...