In bizarre decision, Hanoi FC penalized for opposition fans lighting flares

By Nguyen My, Lam Thoa   April 24, 2019 | 09:07 pm PT
In bizarre decision, Hanoi FC penalized for opposition fans lighting flares
Flares are burned in the Hang Day stadium during a V League match between Hanoi and Hai Phong, April 21, 2019. Photo by Giang Huy
Hanoi FC have been penalized for ‘allowing’ opposition fans to light flares at the Hang Day Stadium last Sunday.

The capital city based club has been ordered to play one match behind closed doors and fined VND70 million ($3,000).

When Hai Phong met Hanoi at the Hang Day Stadium last Sunday on match day 6 of V. League 1, Hai Phong supporters lit up the stands with flares, making life difficult for other spectators and the players.

The situation went from bad to worse when Hanoi’s Pape Omar missed a penalty in the 41st minute with flares being thrown into ground. The referees were forced to suspend the match several times since the smoke was too thick.

It was another infamous outing for Hai Phong supporters, known for their history with flares.

However, the sanctions announced on the morning of April 24 left everyone confounded. It was Hanoi FC that found themselves on the receiving end of the sanction, which included a one-match stadium ban and a fine of VND70 million.

This came as a blow to the reigning champions as they have to play league leaders Ho Chi Minh City FC on April 27 behind closed doors.

"We cannot give Hai Phong FC a stadium ban since the situation took place in Hang Day Stadium in Hanoi.

"From our point of view, this sanction made the most sense," Vu Xuan Thanh, Head of Discipline Department at the Vietnamese Football Federation (VFF) told VnExpress. The department also put the blame for the problem on poor management by organizers of the match at the Hang Day stadium.

Nguyen Quoc Hoi, President of Hanoi FC, was infuriated.

"Hai Phong supporters have been setting off flares in stadiums for years now, and we have not been able to put a stop to this. At the start of the season, we had already mentioned Hai Phong supporters’ tendency to light flares when they travel to Hang Day. However, VFF, Vietnam Professional Football Jointstock Company (VPF) and the organizers of V. League did not give us any support. Hanoi FC and the security of Hang Day stadium cannot deal with this on our own.

"If necessary, every fixture between Hanoi and Hai Phong should be played behind closed doors," he added. "Flares are extremely dangerous. Should this continue, regrettable accidents may happen. Everyone involved should join hands to draw a close to this."

Fans are also bewildered by VFF’s controversial sanction. They argue that according to VFF’s rules, if the opposition supporters light flares, they should be liable, not the home team.

"Maybe the Head of Discipline Department ought to learn the rules again!", one fan commented.

Flares have long been a headache for Vietnamese football. Despite numerous sanctions handed out by VFF and even AFC when supporters took flares abroad, many fans persist playing with fire. A zero tolerance approach is probably the only solution to this vexing problem.

Since 2015, VFF has imposed 60 fines of more than VND1.5 billion ($66,300) against V League clubs for fans burning flares and throwing objects into the stadiums.

Vietnam has not experienced serious injuries from stadium flares, but there have been deadly incidents elsewhere in the world. In 1992, an 13-year-old boy died after a flare burst right in front of him at a stadium in Barcelona, Spain. In 2015, Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was injured after a flare hit his head during a match with Montenegro.

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