Beckham must replay bomb-threat match

13th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

13 December 2004, MADRID- David Beckham and other stars of Real Madrid must replay the match which had to be abandoned after an ETA bomb threat.

13 December 2004

MADRID- David Beckham and other stars of Real Madrid must replay the match which had to be abandoned after an ETA bomb threat.

Beckham and the other Real Madrid stars had to evacuate the Bernebeau Stadium with minutes to play in a match against Real Sociedad.

The two teams were drawing 1-1 when Spanish authorities suspended the match two minutes before the final whistle on Sunday evening.

Police were investigating if the bomb scare represented a change in tactics for ETA.

The drama unfolded after the Basque daily Gara, which has received warnings from ETA in the past, had a phone call claiming that a bomb had been planted in the stadium by the armed Basque separatist group.

Police promptly halted the La Liga match, and the Spanish Soccer Federation announced it would review the matter on Monday with representatives from both clubs.

When one of the reserve referees relayed the warning, chief referee Vicente Jose Lizondo Cortes cut the match short in the 88th minute.

Moments later, the 70,000 spectators were told by loudspeaker to evacuate in an orderly manner, and gates were opened on the ground level to allow for an easier exit from the field and lower stands.

Most fans remained calm, but tension grew as some people broke into a run in their haste to get out. Regardless, the stadium was empty within eight minutes - by 8:50 p.m. local time (1950 GMT) - 10 minutes before the explosives were supposed to go off.

Police and sniffer dogs searched the area for 90 minutes, but nothing was found.

The Spanish Football Federation has decided the two teams must replay the game on January 5 in public.

Bernabeu stadium had been targeted on May 1, 2002, when an ETA car bomb exploded during the Champions League semifinal between Real Madrid and Barcelona, injuring 17. On that occasion, the game continued.

"The bomb warning was serious, and that is why the decision was made to suspend the match," Real Madrid security chief Julio Cendal said.

Police set up a security perimeter around the stadium and cut off access to search the area, and since they blocked cell phone activity, people crowded into phone booths to call their family and friends.

Real Sociedad coach Jose Maria Amorrortu told a press conference there was a sense of panic among the squad at first when the game was halted.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez said the alert seems to have been a hoax.

"Everything seems to indicate that it was a false alarm," he told Spanish television. "The evacuation went smoothly and without any problem. People left quickly without running and at a normal pace."

"It is the positive side of such an unpleasant thing," Perez remarked.

Real Madrid defender Ivan Helguera told EFE radio that he was worried for his family, who was attending the match, adding that it was "a shame that politics and sports get mixed."

"It was all very strange, most of all when we saw the reserve referee come onto the field. The evacuation went normally, but my concern was that my wife was at the stadium, and also my family."

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said that the police were making specific inquiries to find and arrest the person or persons behind the hoax.

Police said the entire stadium had been searched, adding that people had dropped many wallets, bags, mobile telephones, backpacks and other objects in the evacuation.

Real Sociedad players returned to San Sebastian to await the league's decision on Monday.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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