24.09.2023 19:09 h

Ajax-Feyenoord abandoned after flares lobbed on pitch

The Dutch 'Klassieker' between bitter rivals Ajax and Feyenoord was abandoned Sunday after flares were thrown on the pitch in Amsterdam, with the visitors 3-0 ahead ten minutes into the second half.

Violence then spilled out of the stadium, as angry Ajax fans smashed into the main entrance at the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam, prompting riot police on horseback to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.

The unrest was the latest in a string of violent incidents to plague Dutch football that have prompted soul-searching within the game and from politicians across the spectrum.

The match had already been suspended twice during the first half, once for flares on pitch, the other time after a cup was lobbed from the stands.

A double from Santiago Gimenez and one from Igor Paixao had given the team from Rotterdam a comfortable first-half lead.

TV images showed three flares burning on the pitch with smoke from other flares pouring from the notorious south stands of the arena, where the hardcore "F-side" fans sit.

"After the abandoned Ajax-Feyenoord game, 'supporters' forced their way into the entrance. Order has now been restored. Mounted police carried out several charges and deployed tear gas," Amsterdam police said in a statement.

During the unrest, the coaches and players were confined to their dressing rooms over fears for their safety.

Ajax have made a miserable start to the season. After winning their first match, they have drawn two and lost one in the Eredivisie. They are 13th in the table.

The club is in chaos off the pitch as well, with technical director Sven Mislintat under investigation for potential conflict of interest over a recent transfer.

"This is a bitter pill to swallow," Ajax manager Maurice Steijn told ESPN.

"It may sound strange, but I thought we actually started quite well, but you can't play football and make such childish mistakes."

Defending champions Feyenoord, in contrast, remain unbeaten in the top flight this season.

"This has nothing to do with football and being a fan. You are playing with the safety of the players, fellow supporters and yourselves. Shame on you," said Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz-Zegerius on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Authorities in the Netherlands are battling a fresh surge in football violence, with around a dozen serious incidents last season.

In May, black-hooded AZ Alkmaar fans tried to storm the area reserved for friends and family of West Ham staff following the Hammers' 1-0 win in the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

At the time, West Ham manager David Moyes admitted he was concerned for the safety of his family, while stars from the Premier League team climbed over the hoardings in a bid to stop the trouble.

The 'Klassieker' is always a tense affair and last season, Ajax midfielder Davy Klaassen was injured on the head after a Feyenoord supporter tossed a lighter from the stands.

Other games involving Dutch first division teams including FC Utrecht, FC Twente, Go Ahead Eagles, RKC Waalwijk and Sparta Rotterdam also had to be called off due to hooliganism.

One game, between Ajax and Groningen, lasted a mere nine minutes before being called off with smoke bombs raining down on the pitch.

The Eredivisie could order the game replayed, with or without fans, or could hand the points to Feyenoord.

Feyenoord boss Arne Slot said that whatever happened, his team was a victim of a "distortion of competition," adding that he had not seen any of the violence from where he was.

"What is especially annoying is that a really nice moment has been taken away from us," he said.