Two Benfica players injured after bus attack

Jun 06 2020

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LISBON: Tondela’s Pite (L) attempts to block a cross from Benfica’s Jota during their Portuguese Primeira Liga match at the Estadio da Luz.—Reuters
LISBON: Tondela’s Pite (L) attempts to block a cross from Benfica’s Jota during their Portuguese Primeira Liga match at the Estadio da Luz.—Reuters

LISBON: Two Benfica players were injured when rocks were thrown at the Portuguese club’s bus on a motorway after the team was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Tondela.

Benfica said German midfielder Julian Weigl and Serbian winger Andrija Zivkovic were struck by glass shrapnel when the bus was stoned on the A2 motorway on Thursday. They were treated at Hospital da Luz.

On Friday, both players posted the same photograph of themselves giving the thumbs-up sign. In the Instagram photo, there is a bandage covers Zivkovic’s right eye. The attackers have not been identified, but the players addressed the likelihood that the culprits are Benfica fans.

“We are all doing mistakes but there was a line crossed!” the 24-year-old Weigl wrote in his post. “Throwing rocks on a bus without caring if someone gets hurt? I know thats not how the real Benfica fans are! Especially these past weeks and days should have shown us that its always the better solution to stand together instead of literally throwing rocks at each other!”

Zivkovic didn’t discuss his eye injury but said we are both well.

“Unfortunately, we cannot justify this behaviour... None the less we assure you that we will keep fighting for SL Benfica and will continue to give everything!” the 23-year-old Serbian said in his Instagram post.

The team was returning from the Stadium of Light to its training complex. The club condemned the attack as a “criminal stoning” and vowed to work with authorities to identify those responsible.

Also, threatening graffiti was sprayed on the exterior of the homes of coach Bruno Lage and midfielders Pizzi and Rafa during the night, local media reported.

The match was Benfica’s first since the season resumed after being disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Although they could only draw against lowly Tondela, they returned to the top of the table on goal difference, but failed to open up a gap on title rivals FC Porto, who lost at Famalico 2-1 in their first game back on Wednesday.

Fans were unable to enter the stadium to prevent further spread of the virus although supporters still greeted the team’s arrival before the match.

The Portuguese league’s organising body condemned the attack, which has marred what should have been a triumphant return of the season.

Liga Portugal strongly condemns the cowardly attack on the Benfica squad,” the league said in a statement. The stoning of the team’s bus is deeply regrettable, especially at a time when Portuguese football has joined forces to resume an activity that means so much to millions of people in our country.”

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020