Belgium vs Sweden abandoned after two fans shot dead in Brussels ‘terror attack’

Belgium vs Sweden abandoned after two fans shot dead in Brussels ‘terror attack’

Monday evening’s Euro 2024 qualifier between Belgium and Sweden has been abandoned after two people wearing Sweden football shirts were shot dead earlier in Brussels.

The Swedish players informed UEFA at the half-time break that they did not want to play the second half. The Belgians agreed and, around half an hour later, the game was called off with the score at 1-1.

A statement from UEFA read: “Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels this evening, it has been decided after consultation with the two teams and the local police authorities, that the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden is abandoned. Further communication will be made in due course.”

Belgian broadcaster RTBF then suspended the broadcast while the Swedish fans inside the stadium were instructed to stay put for security reasons. Shortly after 11pm BST, the crowd was advised to “return home immediately”.

Belgium fans inside the stadium. (AP)
Belgium fans inside the stadium. (AP)

A post from the Swedish FA read: “Message to Swedish supporters on-site in Brussels: The Belgian police want Swedish supporters to stay in the arena for security reasons. Take part in information from officials, authorities and SvFF (Swedish Football Association) staff on site.”

The shooting in Brussels happened before the game’s evening kick-off. The victims were Swedish and wearing their nation’s football kit at the time.

Belgium raised its terror alert to the highest level in Brussels after a man in a video on social media claimed responsibility for killings and said that he was from the Islamic State.

On Tuesday morning, authorities shot dead a man thought to be the suspect. The gunman, a 45-year-old Tunisian man believed to be linked to IS, was travelling on a moped and was heard to shout “Allahu Akbar” - an Islamic phrase for “God is the Greatest”.

Sweden manager Janne Andersson confirmed the players had asked for the game to be abandoned when they heard about the shooting at half-time.

“I felt it was completely unreal,” he told a press conference. “What kind of world do we live in today? I was supposed to have a good chat with the players but I heard it and almost started crying. When the team started talking, we agreed 100 per cent that we didn't want to play on out of respect for the victims and their families.”

Sweden captain Victor Lindelof, the Manchester United defender, said security put the team “at ease”.

“They explained that this is the safest place to be in Brussels,” he said. “Belgium are already qualified and we don't have the opportunity to get to the European Championship, so I see no reason to play.”

Police and inspectors work in an area where the shooting took place in the center of Brussels. (AP)
Police and inspectors work in an area where the shooting took place in the center of Brussels. (AP)

Laura Demullier, a spokesperson for the Belgium government, has confirmed the country's security services, public prosecutor's office and cabinet will meet at a Crisis Centre to discuss the incident.

She said: “All partners have indeed been called together. Everyone is asked to come here as soon as possible to discuss the next move.”

Speaking to reporters shortly afterward, French president Emmanuel Macron said: “Brussels was hit again by an Islamist terrorist attack ... our Europe is shaken.”

Following the shooting on the Boulevard d'Ypres, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo confirmed the victims were Swedish.

“My deepest condolences to the relatives of this cowardly attack in Brussels,” he wrote on social media. “I have just offered my sincere condolences to Swedish PM following tonight's harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels. Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones. As close partners the fight against terrorism is a joint one.”