It was unofficially announced in advance that the Ultras of FC Porto, the hard core of the Portuguese top club, were looking for revenge. The culprit: the attack by several dozen Antwerp hotheads after the Champions League match Antwerp-Porto on the Bosuil, almost two weeks ago. About twenty masked hooligans then tried after the final whistle for unclear reasons – or was it just frustration after the 1-4 defeat? – to attack the supporters in Porto’s away section. The police even had to use water cannon.
Moreover, the Ultras of Porto have a strong past full of violence. And also with a Belgian touch: in 2016, after the Champions League match against Club Brugge in Porto (which Club lost 1-0), the visiting fans were also extremely violently attacked with stones and glass, resulting in several injuries from Bruges. Last year in May, a sad low point in Porto history followed, when a 26-year-old supporter was stabbed near the stadium, during the celebration of FC Porto’s 30th national title.
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“Be careful, the Ultras of Porto are going to look for ‘ours’, to take revenge,” was the warning voice last weekend among the many hundreds of Antwerp fans who had traveled to the Portuguese port city for the ‘return match’. A warning that was also unofficially repeated in recent days by the Belgian police who traveled along and Antwerp itself. Officially they came to Porto with around 2,500 fans, but unofficially there would be at least 3,500, as many Antwerp supporters were able to get tickets for the home sections of the impressive Estádio do Dragão, which can accommodate more than 50,000 spectators at full capacity.
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The warning turned out not to be a false alarm. Stories soon spread among Antwerp supporters about red and white fans who had been attacked by Portuguese hotheads in various places in the city on Sunday. However, during Monday, the majority of Antwerp supporters arrived in Porto, including a significant part of the hard core of the Great Old. And they reportedly wouldn’t let that happen.
The meeting point for the red and white supporters was café ‘Bonaparte Downtown’ on the Praca Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, a small square in the center of Porto, where hundreds of Antwerp fans gathered. Around half past ten on Monday evening, 200 to 300 hooligans decided to break away from the mainly partying and drinking red and white crowd. In a group they headed towards the Ultras of Porto, who were waiting for their Antwerp rivals a little further in the center of the city – as agreed.
A short but fierce fight followed, during which the Antwerp fans also had to accept stones and flares. The Portuguese police intervened en masse and managed to arrest several dozen hotheads – mainly Antwerp hooligans. It was unclear last night exactly how many arrests were made. What was clear was the massive and extremely nervous action of the Portuguese police, who did not even consider the help of the accompanying spotters from the Antwerp police necessary. Some club officials, who had been hastily called in and tried to calm things down, were also reportedly almost completely ignored by the Portuguese.
Portuguese media are talking about three hundred Antwerp hooligans, who first started throwing tables and chairs and then set off Bengali fire in a residential area. Police ordered shops and cafes to close early, and a square was closed to traffic.
After those brief disturbances, the nerves of the Portuguese police turned towards café ‘Bonaparte Downtown’, where several dozen fans were innocently enjoying themselves, unaware of any evil that had taken place elsewhere in the city. That changed when the square was completely occupied around eleven o’clock in the evening by heavily equipped police officers from the Portuguese police, who cleared the entire square in no time and also closed off the café in question from the outside world.
The reason? The police suspected that some Antwerp fans with a stadium ban were hiding in the café, who had previously participated in the riots in the city center. The taps were then closed on orders from the police and all those present, the vast majority of whom were ordinary Antwerp fans, including their wives and children, were only allowed to leave the café one by one after a long wait, with each person present – suspicious or not – having their say. had to have their identity details scanned and/or searched. Some arrests were again made.
Afterwards, peace returned. Although that was relative, as many innocent Antwerp fans had to move on into the night with some concern or return to their hotel, knowing that there were still groups of Porto ultras wandering through the streets, eager for revenge.