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Fear mounts for Marseille-Atletico Madrid match

Latest update : 2008-12-09

Around 1,000 police will be on duty in and around the Velodrome in Marseille for Tuesday's Champions League match between Olympique Marseille and Atletico Madrid. Tension has risen after a Marseille fan was jailed in Spain last week.

REUTERS - Police fear violence could mar Tuesday's Champions League match between Olympique Marseille and Atletico Madrid after a Marseille fan was jailed in Spain last week, they said on Monday.

"This is a match with high risks, although the risks are reduced by the fact that there will be very few visiting supporters," Marseille police chief Jean-Luc Marx told reporters.

Marseille fan Santos Mirasierra was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for assaulting police officers during his side's Champions League match at Atletico Madrid two months ago.

The case has been a source of rising tension ahead of Atletico's trip to Marseille for their final Group D match.

"The risk comes for excessive passion or violent attempts that could be directed towards the visiting team or the country they represent," Marx added.

Around 1,000 police would be on duty in and around the Velodrome stadium for the match, he said.

The Marseille fan group to which Mirasierra belongs asked their estimated 4,500 members to boycott the game and to demonstrate outside the stadium.

Atletico coach Javier Aguirre said enough attention had already been focused on the security issue and the team were not worried about the trip to Marseille.

"We hope to close the Marseille chapter once and for all on Tuesday," Aguirre told a news conference in Madrid.

"I am sure there will be the highest possible level of security," he said, adding that the squad had been advised to travel to France only on the day of the match as a precaution.

"My team and I would have gone the day before but if UEFA recommends going on the day we cannot do anything else. We are travelling to a civilised country. My players are relaxed."

Atletico's French striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle said he was expecting a "warm but nice" reception in Marseille.

"I am sure the security personnel will do a good job and we hope that nothing happens," he said. "I hope that people will come to watch a football match and nothing more."

Atletico beat Marseille 2-1 at the Calderon on Oct. 1, but the game was marred by clashes between police and visiting fans before kickoff.

UEFA said failures in the home side's organisation led to the confrontations and initially ordered Atletico to play their following two European games at least 300 km from Madrid.

On appeal, the punishment was reduced to one game behind closed doors.
 

Date created : 2008-12-09

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