LISBON: A 50-strong gang of hooded men brutally attacked Sporting Lisbon players and officials at training on Tuesday (May 15) leaving the club in shock and casting doubt over their participation in Sunday’s Cup final.
Wearing t-shirts bearing the club’s logo the gang broke into Sporting’s training ground and went on the rampage, terrorising players and personnel and vandalising dressing rooms.
Sporting’s Dutch international Bas Dost, the club’s top scorer this season, required stitches to his neck. A photograph of his bloodied face appeared on social media.
“It was a distressing situation and we are all shocked,” the striker told Dutch news website Algemeen Dagblad.
Argentina international Marcos Acuna and Croatia’s Josip Misic were also assaulted in the raid on Sporting’s Alcochete training base in the Lisbon suburbs.
The team are meeting their player’s union on Wednesday to discuss their reaction which according to domestic media could see them refuse to play in Sunday’s Cup final against Desportivo das Aves.
Another option on the table is ending their contracts with the club.
The horrific incident left Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa “worried by the image this projects of Portugal to the world”.
He added: “I’m concerned as Portugal is a power in professional football, and I’m worried about the seriousness of what’s happened.”
Portuguese police have made 21 arrests, according to the government.
Several hundred Sporting fans made their way to the team’s Alvalde stadium on Tuesday night to lend their support to their stricken team’s players and management.
Supporters group Juventude Leonina issued a statement on social media strongly condemning the attack.
“The Juventude Leonina numbers more than 7,000 fans. It deeply regrets what happened and disassociates itself from these events.”
DIRECTOR NABBED IN GRAFT PROBE
Sporting’s troubles continued on Wednesday after Portugese police detained a top official from the club.
Police said in a statement the arrests were made over alleged “active corruption in sports” in an operation code-named Cashball, and officers also searched the premises of one football club and various homes.
It did not identify the club. But local television channels showed police working at Sporting’s Alvalade stadium, and sports media said that police suspected some Sporting officials of game-fixing mostly in handball matches but also in some football events, by allegedly bribing referees and players.
One of those detained was Andre Geraldes, the team manager for Sporting and right-hand man of Sporting President Bruno de Carvalho. He had previously dismissed allegations that Sporting may have bribed referees and players.
The arrests adds on to what has been a tumultuous season for the Lisbon club. De Carvalho and the players had a spat last month over their performance in a Europa League match that culminated in his threat to suspend nearly the entire first-team squad.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said the escalation of violence and corruption around sports risked destroying football in the country.
“Faced with the gravity of what happened we have to understand that this climate that has been created over some time … cannot and should not continue, because this escalation will destroy Portuguese football, marring it on the international arena and here inside,” he said.
“It’s time to stop the escalation.”
More Info: www.channelnewsasia.com