| Deportivo La Coruna’s Jaime Sanchez (right) in a tussle with Compostela’s Francisco Cainzos during their King’s Cup match in Santiago de Compostela on Tuesday. (AFP)
Madrid: Spanish football was in mourning following the death of a fan and an attack on a referee in separate incidents at King’s Cup matches on Tuesday evening.
The 31-year-old Deportivo Coruna fan and father of two, Manuel Rios Sanchez, died as a result of injuries sustained in incidents after his side’s 1-0 victory at Santiago Compostela.
In a later tie at Castellon’s Castalia Stadium, referee Jesus Tellez Sanchez suspended the match when he was hit on the head by a mobile phone battery thrown from the crowd after he had awarded a penalty to visiting side Valencia in the final stages of the match with the score at 1-1.
The two incidents came just days after television pictures showed a man attempting to stab rival fans at the fourth division match between Langreo and Real Oviedo.
Spanish football has been plagued by a rising tide of violence in recent seasons and the throwing of projectiles, brawls between rival fans, pitch invasions and confrontations with the police have become a common occurrence at matches.
Last year both the Spanish government and the Football Federation promised that they would crack down on football-related violence, but as yet there have been few concrete measures to deal with the problem.
A similar upsurge in violence has occurred in Italian football in recent seasons, with the latest incident last month resulting in the death of a Napoli fan after he tried to scale an outer wall during his side’s Serie B match against Avellino.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Deportivo fan Rios are still unclear, but Spanish media reported that he was caught up in fighting between fans following the Cup tie.
The last such tragedy in Spanish football occurred five years ago when Real Sociedad fan Aitor Zabaleta was stabbed in the heart by a member of Atletico Madrid’s radical group of supporters prior to the Uefa Cup tie between the two sides in the Spanish capital.
Spanish media lamented the state of what is universally referred to as ‘el deporte rey’ (the king of sports) in their reports on Tuesday evening’s incidents.
‘Horror’ was the banner headline on the front page of a sports daily, while another paper commented “what should have been a night of celebration was converted into a grim spectacle because of savage aggression and the actions of a madman at Castalia.”
Deportivo president Augusto Cesar Lendoiro voiced the sentiments of many of those in the game with his comments on hearing of the fan’s death.
“Maybe we in the world of football haven’t yet come to realise that none of this makes any sense,” he said. “There is no earthly reason for things like this to happen. What should have been a celebration for two Galician football teams ended with the death of a person and the destruction of a family.”
There was similar indignation from those involved in the match at Castellon which saw the attack on referee Tellez Sanchez.
In a trouble-free game, a below-strength Real Madrid defeated third-division San Sebastian de los Reyes 3-0 in the first round. Raul Gonzalez netted a 29th-minute goal, striker Javier Portillo and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso completed the tally.