Several Swedish fans were shot and killed while attending their national team’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Belgium.
The Belgian prime minister immediately apologized and expressed his condolences, and the game was suspended after halftime.
On the 17th, Belgian police said that two Swedish nationals had been shot dead in the capital city of Brussels, according to multiple news outlets, including the British publication The Independent. The game between the two teams was suspended, and Belgian police asked spectators to remain in the stadium and raised the terror alert to the highest level.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Klerk said on social media, “There was a terrible attack tonight in Brussels against Swedish citizens. “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost loved ones,” he said, expressing his sincere condolences to the Swedish Prime Minister. The fight against terrorism is a shared fight.”
In neighboring France, President Emmanuel Macron said, “A few minutes ago, Brussels suffered another Islamist terrorist attack,” adding, “Europe is shocked by the attack on Brussels.”
A spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office, which is handling the case, declined to provide further details about the victims or a possible motive.
However, a video posted on the website of a Belgian newspaper showed a man in an orange jacket riding a scooter at an intersection, firing two or three shots at first, then running into a building and firing two more shots before leaving.
“The assailant shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the greatest) in Arabic,” said a witness who saw the incident. The alleged assailant also posted a video on social media in which he said, “My name is Abdelrahman al-Gilani. I am from the Islamic State,” and “I have killed three Swedes (not two) so far,” he claimed. However, Belgian police have since confirmed that two Swedish soccer fans were killed, while the third was badly injured.
In the match, Belgium and Sweden scored a goal apiece in the first half and were preparing for the second half. Swedish striker Viktor Giokeres opened the scoring in the 15th minute, but Belgium’s star striker Romelu Lukaku equalized in the 31st minute to send the game into halftime tied at 1-1.
Afterward, Swedish players refused to play the second half in honor of their countrymen. The Belgians agreed, and the game was eventually canceled after halftime. Sweden’s head coach Janne Andersson told reporters, “We were leaving (the field) for the (halftime) break when we heard about the shooting. I thought it was completely unreal,” she said, adding, “How can this happen in the world we live in today?”
“I came into the locker room and talked to the players and they were 100 percent in favor of stopping the game to pay our respects to the victims and their families.”
A Swedish fan who was at the stadium at the time told the country’s leading newspaper Aftonbladet that he was “very shocked and didn’t really understand what was going on” and that “everyone was talking about taking off the Swedish national team jerseys and changing into something else.”
UEFA announced on its official website on Sunday: “Following this evening’s incident in Brussels, we have held discussions with both teams and local police authorities. It has been decided to cancel the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden. Further comment will be forthcoming.” 먹튀검증
As horrific as the attack itself was, the fact that the assailant targeted and shot at fans following their national team’s away game is sure to send shockwaves through the soccer world. With the safety of fans and players at stake, it is likely to have a significant impact on the upcoming European Championship qualifiers and the main tournament in Germany next June.
Next year’s European Championships will be held in 10 German cities, including Berlin, Munich, Dortmund, Stuttgart, Gelsenkirchen, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Leipzig, and Frankfurt.
In addition, there are concerns about the ripple effect on the safety of soccer matches, as copycat crimes aimed at the opposing team’s away fans may occur in various soccer competitions in the future.
Meanwhile, the Belgian capital, Brussels, also suffered from measles in 2016 when a major terrorist incident occurred in the morning on the way to work.
On March 22, 2016, three serial bombings occurred in downtown Brussels between 8 and 9 a.m., with the first two at the Brussels Airport and the second at a metro station in the city.
The attacks left 34 people dead, including two suicide bombers, and 250 injured. Both the airport and train station were shut down, leaving Brussels in chaos.
Since then, Belgium has continued to focus on improving security with the possibility of terrorism in mind. In March, the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest of eight people in a counterterrorism operation. However, these efforts came to a shocking halt when a terrorist attack targeting soccer fans occurred in the center of Brussels.