The qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden for Euro 2024 in Brussels was interrupted only after the end of the first half. By this time, the first two victims of the mad terrorist had been dead for an hour and a half.
As is known, everyone – including the players – was informed about the whole situation only after the end of the first forty-five minutes of football. It was a police plan.
The security forces did not know exactly the situation and the possible scope of the terrorist attack. Therefore, they decided to let part of the match be played. It allowed them to get more information and more importantly time to prepare for what was to come.
The Belgian police did not dare to disperse the crowd of fans in the city streets before kicking off in a panic, in a situation where no one knew what was waiting for them there. Rather, she gained time to prepare for the organized evacuation of Swedish fans to hotels.
It was not about thousands of people, there were “only” about 400 Swedes. Nevertheless, it was a large number of people who could not be dissolved without control. During halftime, it was thus possible to prepare everything, prevent panic and calmly and relatively safely prepare for evacuation and transport to hotels. As the BBC pointed out, all the fans ended up spending the night in hotels under police protection.
It must have been a demanding security operation. The evacuation of the King Baudouin Stadium did not begin until around 23:45 local time, with the last fans and staff leaving as late as 4:00 local time.
Sweden’s players have since flown home and the attacker was shot dead by police in Brussels on Tuesday morning.
The Swedish Football Association (SvFF) confirmed it had received reports of the killings just before the match, but everything started as planned as the Belgian authorities and police considered the stadium five kilometers from the scene of the shooting to be the safest place.
The players and officials were informed about the half time with the score 1:1. Sweden captain and Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof said that this calmed the situation around the team. “They explained that this is the safest place in Brussels,” he said of the stadium.
It has not been officially confirmed whether the fans who were shot actually went to the game. However, SvFF chairman Fredrik Reinfeldt described the shooting as a disgusting attack on innocent people who were heading to a football stadium.
The prosecutor in the case said the nationality of the victims was a likely motive. There are still incidents in Sweden when Korans were burned in protest against Islamic extremism.
Of course, the Brussels tragedy is triggering a wave of measures in Europe.
For example, England will face Italy in the Euro 2024 qualifier at Wembley today from 20:45. The Metropolitan Police said that given Monday’s events, those attending the match can be assured of a highly visible police presence. “The officers are there to ensure the safe running of the event and to provide security for the participants,” she said.