LISBON (Reuters) - Confusion reigned at Sporting on Saturday after club president Bruno de Carvalho announced that he would suspend nearly the entire first-team squad following a spat between himself and the players on Facebook.
De Carvalho, however, later deleted his most recent post on Facebook and there was no official mention of the row on the club’s official website.
A news conference with Sporting coach Jorge Jesus, due to be held later on Saturday, was postponed for three hours amid media reports that Sporting would field a reserve team in Sunday’s Portuguese league match at home to Pacos de Ferreira.
The row began after Sporting’s 2-0 defeat away to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League on Thursday when De Carvalho lambasted their performance, singling out defenders Sebastian Coates and Jeremy Mathieu for extra criticism.
On Friday, the club denied media reports that the players had refused to train in protest but shortly afterwards most of the first-team squad published a note repudiating De Carvalho’s comments.
“We always fight for our club, for our supporters and ourselves,” said the statement. “For this reason, we express in this message our displeasure at the public comments of our president after a game in which we did not get the result we wanted.”
The players also complained of “the lack of support from the one who is supposed to be our leader.”
“No matter what the situation, all such matters should be resolved within the group,” they added.
Portuguese media said that 19 first-team players had posted the message on their social media pages.
In reply, De Carvalho posted another Facebook message announcing their suspension. Screenshots of it were reproduced by Portuguese media although it was not on his Facebook page on Saturday.
“All the players who wrote the message below are suspended with immediate effect and will face the club’s disciplinary procedures,” said De Carvalho.
“I’m fed up with spoilt children who don’t represent anything or anyone,” he said. “This time, my patience has run out for those who think they are above the club and any sort of criticism.”
Additional reporting by Miguel Perreira; Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Clare Fallon