Friday 30 September 2016

Belgium friendly against Portugal switched from Brussels to Leiria

Eleanor Crooks

Published 23/03/2016 | 12:26

Belgium manager Marc Wilmots
Belgium manager Marc Wilmots

Belgium's friendly against Portugal next Tuesday has been moved from Brussels to Leiria.

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The Royal Belgian Football Association announced on Wednesday morning that the game had been cancelled because of security fears following the terrorist attacks in Brussels.

A statement on belgianfootball.be read: "For security reasons and precaution, the City of Brussels has asked the Belgian FA to cancel the match Belgium - Portugal on 29 March.

"The match of our Belgian Red Devils against Portugal, scheduled Tuesday night at the King Baudouin Stadium, will not take place."

But several hours later the Belgian FA issued another statement announcing the game would be played after all but in Portugal.

"Given the dramatic events of yesterday, in these difficult times to allow mass events to take place safely and given the terror level 4 at national level, the game against Portugal will not take place in Brussels next Tuesday," it read.

"This was decided today in coordination with the authorities and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF).

"The Board of Directors of the Belgian FA has, in agreement with the national coach and coaching staff, decided to accept the proposal of the Portuguese Football Federation to play this match in Leiria, on the same day and at the same time.

"The Belgian FA appreciates the availability, flexibility and solutions offered by the Portuguese Federation. The FPF expresses its full solidarity with the Belgian FA in this tough and emotional period.

"This afternoon, our Belgian Red Devils will train behind closed doors at the King Baudouin Stadium."

Explosions at Brussels' international airport and a metro station on Tuesday morning killed more than 30 people and injured many more.

The Belgium team cancelled their scheduled training session later in the day out of respect for the victims.

Belgium were facing having a second successive friendly cancelled after their scheduled clash with Spain in Brussels was called off in November following the Paris atrocities.

A series of co-ordinated attacks in the French capital that had been planned in Brussels killed 130 people and saw the terror threat level in the Belgian capital raised to its maximum.

Meanwhile, UEFA has insisted there are no plans to play matches at Euro 2016 behind closed doors in response to the increased security threat.

Speaking to French radio station Radio 24, UEFA executive committee vice-president Giancarlo Abete was quoted as saying: ''We can't exclude the possibility of playing behind closed doors as we cannot exclude terrorism.''

But UEFA said in a statement: ''We are confident that all security measures will be in place for a safe and festive Euro and therefore there are no plans to play matches behind closed doors.

''However, we are nevertheless working on contingency plans and on multiple scenarios around crisis situations since we take the security of all participants (players, fans, etc) very seriously.''

The Stade de France, the venue for the opening match of Euro 2016 between France and Romania on June 10, was one of the targets in November.

One attacker tried to enter the stadium but his explosive vest was discovered by security and he blew himself up, killing a bystander. Two other terrorists also blew themselves up nearby.

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