Dozens Injured, Arrested In Bulgaria Euro Qualifier Clashes
Muhammad Rameez Published November 17, 2023 | 04:20 PM
Sofia, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 17th Nov, 2023) At least 33 police officers and 24 football fans were injured in clashes outside the stadium where Bulgaria were playing a Euro 2024 qualifier against Hungary, authorities said Friday.
UEFA had ordered Thursday's game in Sofia to be played behind closed doors after a request by the national federation, which feared trouble following a supporters' call for a major protest against the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) and its long-time president Borislav Mihaylov.
But around 4,000 supporters gathered outside the national stadium and some involved in the demonstrations suffered broken limbs in the clashes.
"Twenty-four injured were examined, including seven who were hospitalised with head traumas, broken legs and arms and many who were gassed with pepper spray," Katya Sungarska, a spokeswoman for the national emergency centre, told AFP Friday.
Thirty-three football fans were detained last night and arrests were still being made, he said, slamming the violence as "an unprecedented violation of public order with serious aggression and posing high risk".
"Yesterday we witnessed ugly scenes of violence. Their main cause is the long-standing management of the Bulgarian Football Union which led to a decline of Bulgarian football, without any prospects for development," Denkov told journalists.
But he refrained from directly calling for Mihaylov's resignation.
Several politicians have already demanded the 60-year-old former goalkeeper for the national team to quit immediately but the BFU has not commented.
- Fans' anger -
Violent clashes erupted after groups of masked fans started to throw smoke bombs, pavement blocks, stones and beer bottles at police lines.
Over 1,500 policemen in full anti-riot gear were in place to ensure security.
Two water cannons were deployed to disperse the crowd -- a measure used relatively rarely in the Balkan country.
Fans' anger has built up in recent years over the poor results of the national team that has failed to qualify for any major tournaments and went through numerous coaches during Mihaylov's time at the helm of the federation.
The controversial president quit in 2019 but then withdraw his resignation and was re-elected in 2021, despite a record marred by suspicions of match-fixing and a racist abuse scandal during a match against England in 2019.