SOFIA (Reuters) - Police detained 42 suspected soccer hooligans before Levski Sofia’s 2-2 draw against bitter city rivals CSKA in the Bulgarian league at the Vasil Levski national stadium on Saturday.
In a statement, the Bulgarian capital’s police force also said that three children had been hospitalised after fans set off flares and threw smoke bombs early in the second half. Referee Georgi Kabakov interrupted the game for a few minutes.
Skirmishes broke out before the match with rival fans throwing a number of fireworks, missiles and other objects at each other and police. Only a few people, however, suffered slight injuries.
Police said supporters were detained for possession of flares, bombs and other devices, also known as a “pyro”. The fashion for lighting red-hot flares has long been part of the fan culture in several southern European countries, including Bulgaria.
The fixture has a long history of crowd violence. A 30-year-old man was killed by a bomb in 2000 and hooliganism and arrests have been rife since.
Extra police officers were on hand to monitor the fans in the city centre and around the stadium before, during and after the game between the Balkan country’s most popular clubs.
The result left CSKA second in the standings on 28 points from 13 matches, two points behind champions Ludogorets who have a game in hand. Levski are third on 25.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Christian Radnedge