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Soccer-"Tragedy avoided" as Lisbon derby postponed

Reuters

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Feb 9 (Reuters) - The Lisbon derby between Benfica and Sporting was postponed on Sunday, and the crowd evacuated, after high winds caused debris to fall from the roof at the venue that will host the Champions League final in May.

The president of the Portuguese Football League, Mario Figueiredo, said the decision "avoided a tragedy" after pieces of glass fell to the ground.

The teams had already been announced when the crowd was told the match would be delayed as wind blew debris and rubbish around the pitch. The game was then called off after the scheduled kickoff time.

"There were small pieces of glass which had come off the roof," Figueiredo told a news conference at the Stadium of Light.

"An emergency meeting was held around 15 minutes before the kickoff and we asked the civil defence if the game could go ahead. They said it couldn't and told us to evacuate the stadium as quickly as possible.

"Fortunately this measure was decided in good time because shortly afterwards the pieces (of the roof) started to fall. A tragedy was avoided.

"We had to take this drastic decision," added Figueiredo.

The stadium was rebuilt and completed in 2003 before being used in Euro 2004.

Sporting's official supporters club were unhappy with the way the evacuation was carried out.

"The Sporting fans were only allowed to leave the stadium around one hour after it was announced the game had been postponed," they said in a statement.

"The fans were kept in a sporting arena that was not safe enough to stage the match," the supporters club said before adding they had been treated in an "irresponsible" manner.

The match has been rescheduled for Tuesday.

Benfica are top of the league on 40 points, one ahead of Porto and two in front of third-placed Sporting. (Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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