Tear Gas Canister Thrown From Stands Forces Stoppage During La Liga Villarreal's Match
The La Liga match on Saturday between Villarreal and Celta Vigo was "halted shortly before the final whistle and delayed by about half an hour after a tear gas canister was thrown on to the pitch," according to MARCA. Celta led 1-0 at Villarreal's El Madridgal stadium and "there were about three minutes left when the canister, which contained tear gas, landed near the visitors' goal and began spewing out a thick cloud of white smoke." Both sets of players, some of whom "were clearly suffering from the effects of the gas, retreated inside the stadium and fans quickly left the ground, with many covering their mouths and noses and in obvious distress." The match was "eventually restarted in an almost empty arena" (MARCA, 2/16). The BBC reported Villarreal President Fernando Roig said, "The police are trying to establish who this person is. I hope they are able to identify the person and that the full force of the law falls upon them. It is a similar device to those used by the police to disperse crowds." A public announcer at Villarreal "asked fans to evacuate the ground after the canister was thrown." Players "asked for water as the smoke apparently irritated their eyes" (BBC, 2/16).
VILLARREAL REACTS: MARCA reported Roig said that "the club regrets and condemns the events." Roig: "I don't usually talk to the press after matches, but I am on this occasion to make it clear that Villarreal regrets and condemns what happened. There are no words to describe this act of vandalism. A full investigation is underway, but we think the person responsible threw the canister from the entrance to one of the stands and then ran away. We can only condemn these types of acts, which in no way represent the Villarreal fans. I'm completely convinced that whoever did it was trying to harm Villarreal." Celta Vigo goalkeeper Yoel Rodríguez, "who was closest to the smoke bomb when it went off," said, "At first I thought it was a flare, but my eyes and throat soon started itching and I realized it was something else." Villarreal coach Marcelino was "also visibly incensed by the events and had to apologise for his language after swearing." Marcelino said, "Sometimes people do things that are hard to understand and this was one of those occasions. We'd be best off not even talking about it" (MARCA, 2/16).
NO MAJOR INJURIES: EL PAIS reported Villarreal confirmed that "there were no serious injuries and 15 fans were tended to." It was "confirmed that 11 fans suffered from inhaling the gas and four others were taken to local hospitals." The majority of the "fans treated suffered anxiety attacks, with others were injured while 14,195 people quickly evacuated the stadium." The club said that "the evacuation followed protocol, with the stands emptying in eight minutes" (EL PAIS, 2/16).
INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY: In Madrid, Javier Mata wrote "after the initial reactions, it seems that some things are becoming clear" about the object thrown onto the pitch. The first is that "per sources from the investigation, this was not an unexpected action and whoever did this was inside the stadium from the start of the match." Possible sanctions for Villarreal include fines of up to €30,000 ($41,100) and "playing behind closed doors for four games or more." It will "not help the club that no one was detained, that the object thrown onto the field is prohibited in football stadiums and that the game had to be stopped for 25 minutes" (AS, 2/16). Mata reported in a separate piece the "gas canister thrown onto the field is only accessible in Spain to law enforcement." The "canisters are only available to the National Police and Civil Guard." Sources "close to the investigation said that this could not be bought legally and that a purchase on the black market is difficult, but not impossible." The "good news is that these devices usually require registration, which could help authorities locate the source" (AS, 2/16).