April 20, 2018 / 10:30 AM / 5 months ago

Bulgaria calls for tough response to soccer violence

SOFIA (Reuters) - The Bulgarian government has called for tough measures to crack down on violent soccer fans after a policewoman was injured in an explosion at the Sofia derby on Wednesday.

Some 40 Levski Sofia fans were detained after a policewoman sustained an eye injury and underwent surgery following the incident at the Vasil Levski stadium during a league match between the 26-times Bulgarian champions and their bitter city rivals CSKA.

“The first step, which will be taken is that the interior ministry will issue recommendations to the sports ministry, which will provide for increased access control and identification of those who have access to football events,” the sports ministry said in a statement.

The offender who set off the explosion has not yet been found, police said.

The police officer, who will need another operation to retain vision in her injured eye, was hit by broken glass after a device exploded near a stadium entrance, while another policeman sustained minor injuries.

The Eternal Derby, as matches between the two most popular clubs in the Balkan country are known, has a long history of crowd violence.

A man was killed by a bomb after a game in 2000 and hooliganism has been rife since then. There have also been numerous arrests.

ULTRAS

Levski condemned Wednesday’s violence in a statement but the club face a potential three-match home stadium ban and a fine of 30,000 levs (13,461 pounds). The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) will announce its decision in the case on Friday.

Most Balkan states, including Bulgaria, are known to have groups of hardcore soccer fans, known as ‘ultras’ who are frequently behind stadium trouble.

Football-related violence has spiralled in Bulgaria since the fall of communism in 1989 with threats and even physical violence against players and officials now commonplace.

The Bulgarian sports ministry said another measure to combat stadium violence should be the creation of a working group to prepare legislative changes that will lead to “increased personal responsibility”.

“There must be a public response and irreconcilability to such hooliganism,” said the interior ministry’s Chief Secretary Mladen Marinov. “We have to jointly oppose such acts.”

The interior ministry’s police union called for stricter sanctions for people showing aggression or showing disrespect to police officers.

“The incident at the football match is part of the terror spread across the stadiums and streets, which is directed against the law, morality and the whole society,” the union said.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Toby Davis

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