SOFIA, April 19 (Reuters) - Lokomotiv Plovdiv’s match at home to bitter city rivals Botev was abandoned in the first half after firecrackers, stones and other objects were thrown on to the pitch during their Bulgarian championship clash on Saturday.
Referee Georgi Kabakov, who stopped the game for a few minutes in the early stages after several flares were let off, took the players from the pitch and abandoned the game five minutes before halftime with the score at 0-0.
Botev’s Romania defender Srdjan Luchin fell to the ground but escaped unhurt after Lokomotiv fans set off loud fireworks on the field with players rushing to the referee, urging him to stop the match which he did after consutling the match delegate.
Lokomotiv captain Martin Kamburov, the league’s top scorer with 19 goals, tried to negotiate with the supporters but failed to calm them down, saying it was their way of protesting against club president Konstantin Dinev.
“They were categorical that they would not allow the game to continue,” he told reporters. “This is not the way to protest against the president or anyone else.
“I have no idea how they managed to get all these fireworks in the stadium, you have to ask the police. And they had such big stones...”
Several supporters were detained before the match but no arrests were reported after it was abandoned.
“Normal fans don’t go to the stadiums because of these people,” Dinev said. “I’m afraid that God can punish Lokomotiv... I’m worried about the club’s existence.”
Violence inside and outside stadiums has plagued Bulgarian football in recent seasons, endangering the safety of players and supporters.
“Stupidity crossed all boundaries today,” Botev coach Stanimir Stoilov told reporters. “There’s fair play and there’s good refereeing but look what happened...
“What can I say, I’ve seen a lot in football but you can’t see things like this in Europe nowadays,” refereeing observer Lyube Spasov said. “It was the only sensible decision (to abandon the match). Thank God nobody got hurt.”
The Bulgarian Football Union will rule on the match next week.
Lokomotiv, the 2004 Bulgarian champions, have been ordered to play one match at a neutral ground and two games behind closed doors following crowd trouble this season.
Twice Bulgarian champions Botev played one match at a neutral ground and one game behind closed doors after hooliganism marred their matches this term.
Botev, who played in the Europa League this season, are fourth in the standings with 54 points from 32 matches, Lokomotiv are seventh on 49. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Ken Ferris)