Saturday 21 September 2019

Police officer dies in supporter clashes ahead of Europa League match

General view of riot police outside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Vincent West
General view of riot police outside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Vincent West Newsdesk Newsdesk

A police officer died as trouble flared ahead of Athletic Bilbao's Europa League clash with Spartak Moscow.

Videos of fireworks and flares being let off were widely shared on social media ahead of the fixture at San Mames, as pre-match calls for calm were ignored.

Further images showed supporters clashing with police, with the local force later reporting the death of an officer.

"Our condolences to colleagues, friends and relatives of the Ertzaina (Basque police officer) who died in an act of service," Bilbao Police wrote on Twitter. The cause of death was not reported.

Athletic added a statement of their own, saying: "Our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the deceased officer today. Athletic Club express their strongest rejection of violence generated around football."

At his post-match press conference, Athletic head coach Jose Angel Ziganda said, in quotes carried on Twitter: "We didn't know anything. We found out at the end of the game. I don't know if would have been better or worse to suspend the match."

Fears of trouble had existed prior to the game, with more Russians expected to travel than there were tickets. Spartak posted a lengthy call for good behaviour on their official website, reminding supporters that there were no tickets available and that "the cashier's office will not work".

The statement went on to ask fans not to "succumb to provocations and not enter conflicts with local residents". Athletic said that security would be reinforced in anticipation of "the large influx of visiting fans".

Organising body UEFA said it "strongly condemns the violent clashes", adding in a statement: "We are in contact with local authorities to obtain further information on these incidents.

"UEFA sends its sincere condolences to the family and colleagues of the police officer who passed away tonight."

PA Media

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