There were reports of several injuries and incidents of arson – from vehicles to refuse bins – as football fans from several clubs clashed with police in the centre of Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia on November 16.
The protest, demanding the resignation of the leadership of the Bulgarian Football Union, was held as the national teams of Bulgaria and Hungary faced each other in Vassil Levski National Stadium in a match being played with no spectators present.
The protest began at 5pm, some time before the match began, and tensions escalated soon after 6.20pm, as “ultras”, some masked, threw fragments of paving stones, fireworks and flares at police, who responded by firing a water cannon at the crowd. Police also used pepper spray amid the confrontation.
Unconfirmed reports said that those injured in the clashes included at least two police.
Fire engines and ambulances were deployed to the scene of the clashes, as police conducted a running battle with the crowd. Live television images showed some of the crowd being taken into custody by police.
The core of the clashes was close to the stadium, but as the confrontation continued, some of the crowd headed in the direction of the National Palace of Culture, another in the direction of Sofia University.
According to a report by Bulgarian National Radio, some of the crowd bombarded the building of the Turkish embassy, in Vassil Levski Boulevard, with stones and fireworks, and set three nearby refuse bins on fire. Television images also showed a vehicle, reportedly an ambulance, burnt out near the intersection of Vassil Levski Boulevard and Gurko Street. Shop windows were smashed.
Ahead of the event, the Interior Ministry said that it was deploying about 1600 police. Reports from the scene said that the football fans exceeded 1500.
Before the start of the protest, police checks resulted in the confiscation of, among other items, a pistol and knuckledusters.
Sofia’s newly-elected mayor Vassil Terziev said that he was heading to the centre of the city to inspect the damage.
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