Fans behind banner showing player's decapitation face five-year ban
The beautiful game turned ugly.
Anderlecht midfielder Steven Defour was sent off on his return to former club Standard Liege in Belgium on Sunday.
The reason? He kicked the ball at Standard Liege fans after they unveiled a huge banner depicting the decapitation of the Belgium international.
Defour spent five years with Standard and was team captain before signing for Portuguese side Porto in 2011. There is a bitter rivalry between Anderlecht and Standard and Standard fans saw his move to Anderlecht in August 2014 as a betrayal.
The giant banner, unfurled before kick off and large enough to cover three tiers of the stand, showed the Jason Voorhees character from the FRiday the 13th horror movies, brandishing a machete and holding Defour's head. The banner read "RED OR DEAD".
Defour was already on a yellow card when he kicked the ball during Anderlecht’s 2-0 defeat at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne.
Half an hour into the match, Defour kicked the ball high into the home crowd stands.
Early into the second half he again booted the ball, a straighter more powerful shot toward Standard fans.
Guardian reported that Defour claimed the second kick was to put the ball out of play to allow Standard player Martin Milec to receive treatment.
The 26-year-old Belgium international apologised for his actions on Instagram and Facebook saying: “Apologies to my fans... although I do not understand the red card – you can not see or hear the referee.”
Anderlecht's Steven Defour being sent off during the match against Standard Liege. Photo: AFP
Now Standard Liege fans can expect heavy sanctions for the banner.
“We’re working together with police to catch as many of the authors of this banner as possible,” a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said on Monday.
She added that individuals faced fines of up to 5,000 euros (S$ 75,500) and could be banned from the stadium for up to five years.
Politicians also voiced their anger over the banner. “(It) was in bad taste, it was stupid and unacceptable,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders tweeted.
Fellow Standard supporter and former prime minister Yves Leterme also expressed his disappointment on Twitter: “Standard-Anderlecht has been ruined by a minority of supporters. I remain a supporter but feel ashamed by the banner tonight.”
A cartoon was posted on the Facebook page of Standard fan group Ultras Inferno 1996 with the caption “I’m sorry” and a Jason figure holding a board saying “or not”.
Standard Liege were not immediately available for comment.
Source: Reuters, Guardian