Betis bottle-throwers strike again

18th March 2008, Comments 0 comments

Athletic Bilbao wants points from match after goalkeeper is hit in the eye

18 March 2008

SEVILLE/MADRID - Another season, and another "isolated incident" at Real Betis' soccer stadium, this time sending Athletic Bilbao's goalkeeper to hospital with a nasty eye injury and sparking a simmering dispute over what to do about the league game between the two teams after the decision to suspend play on Saturday night.

Having seen goalkeeper Armando struck in the face by a full plastic water bottle, referee Carlos Clos Gómez decided he had no option but to stop the game after 70 minutes' play, particularly taking into account that Athletic had already used the maximum three substitutes. Armando suffered cuts and bruising under his right eye, and has been told to rest. Anyone who saw the incident - or who remembers how then-Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was knocked unconscious in an almost identical incident at the same stadium last year - can only conclude that it could have been even worse.

Carmelo Pérez, the 40-year-old construction worker who has been charged with throwing the bottle from the stands, was yesterday released from custody having paid EUR 3,000 bail. Television images show how Pérez was singled out by nearby Betis fans, some of whom jostled the accused as he was held by a member of the private security firm employed by the club.

Aside from the discomfort of his present notoriety, however, Pérez probably need not fear a stiff judicial sentence if found guilty. The prosecution in the case arising from last year's Ramos bottle incident is demanding that the accused be fined EUR 4,680, besides being banned from stadiums for two years. After that Betis-Sevilla King's Cup match was stopped, the RFEF soccer federation ordered the remaining 33 minutes be played in an empty neutral stadium, as well as closing Betis' Ruiz de Lopera ground for three games. This time, Athletic feels that a better punishment would be to forego the rest of the game, awarding Bilbao the points as it was 2-1 ahead when play was suspended.

"It's clear that the game cannot be completed in a normal manner," Athletic president Fernando García Macua said, while asking for an "effective punishment." Visiting players to Bilbao's San Mamés stadium have regularly complained of similar violence. Macua's Betis counterpart, Pepe León, saw things differently, yesterday arguing the need to play out the match, while expressing regret over the "unjustifiable act."

[Copyright EL PAÍS / Jaume Bauzá Leira / S.F. 2008]

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