Belgium’s friendly against Serbia on Wednesday night was switched to Leuven after heavy rain made the pitch at Brussels’ King Baudouin stadium unplayable.
The Belgian FA announced on Wednesday morning that the match would be held instead at Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven with no fans allowed.
‘Given the short-term impossibility of organising the match safely in the presence of supporters, the match will be played without an audience,’ a spokesman said.
Spectators who had bought tickets will get a refund.
After taking on Serbia, Belgium is set to face Azerbaijan in a qualifying game for next year’s European Championship on Sunday at King Baudouin stadium.
Belgium’s friendly against Serbia on Wednesday night was switched to Leuven
Fans were banned despite the friendly taking place just 20 miles away in Leuven
Match switched after heavy rain made pitch at Brussels’ King Baudouin stadium unplayable
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The location for that Group F match remains the same ‘until further notice.’
The friendly against Serbia was supposed to be the first international fixture at the King Baudoin Stadium since two Swedish supporters were shot dead in a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels on October 16.
The Euro 2024 qualifier was abandoned at half-time after the pair, reported to be wearing Sweden shirts, were gunned down in the city before the game.
Swedish supporters were locked inside the stadium until 4am, while Swedish players were taken to the airport under police escort.
A video posted online featured a fluorescent-jacketed man claiming a link to Islamic State saying in Arabic that he had carried out a ‘revenge attack’.
In it, he boasted that he had killed ‘infidels’ while earlier in the day he had posted on Facebook referring to the stabbing in the US of a Palestinian boy, by his mother’s landlord.
Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told the news conference the suspect was a 45-year-old Tunisian man who sought asylum in Belgium in November 2019 and was known to police over people smuggling and illegal residence in Belgium.
Amid distressing scenes, UEFA released a statement confirming the cancellation, which happened at half-time during the clash at the King Baudouin Stadium. Swedish fans were asked to stay in the ground for their own safety.
The Euro 2024 qualifier in Brussels was abandoned at half-time on Monday night
Terrified Belgian and Swedish supporters were locked inside the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Monday after two fans were shot dead. The match was abandoned at half-time
The shooting took place in Boulevard d’Ypres – approximately three miles from the stadium
Police arrived at the site of the shooting incident while the match was underway in Brussels
It 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.’
The score was 1-1 at the time the game was abandoned. Viktor Gyokeres gave Sweden a 15th-minute lead, but Romelu Lukaku had Belgium level just after the half-hour.
Belgian FA CEO Manu Leroy revealed news of the attack filtered through before the game, but the Euro 2024 qualifier was allowed to kick-off after police and security services were consulted.
‘Ten minutes before the match, reports started coming in about what had happened around the stadium,’ he said.
‘In consultation with the security and order services, it was then announced whether we could start the match.’
Leroy also explained the decision to abandon the game was taken after Lindelof communicated Sweden’s players did not want to play in the second half.
‘After the first half, the captain of Sweden announced that they did not want to start the second half,’ Leroy added.
‘Then it was important to discuss with the police how we could best evacuate the stadium.
‘The decision was made at the highest level at 11.45 pm.
‘Stand by stand we looked at how we could best lead the people out. The Swedish fans received a police escort, the players left under police escort to the airport to fly back to their home country.’
Concerned supporters embraced each other during the terrifying experience as Belgian authorities locked all fans inside the stadium for their own safety in the aftermath of the attack
A third Swedish fan is also believed to be seriously injured – as the alleged attacker claimed to be a member of ISIS seeking to avenge the killing of a six-year-old US-Palestinian boy
Sweden manager Janne Anderson (middle) spoke to the media shortly after the game was abandoned
Sweden head coach Janne Andersson revealed to reporters after the match was suspended that he and his team were determined not to play out of respect for the victims.
‘When I came down for the break, I got this information,’ he said. ‘Immediately, I felt that it was completely unreal. What kind of world do we live in today?
‘I came into the locker room and 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.’
Belgium have already qualified for next year’s European Championship in Germany.
Source: Daily Mail