Buenos Aires: Independiente’s Argentine league match with Belgrano was suspended before the second half could restart when a flare stunned visiting goalkeeper Juan Carlos Olave on Wednesday.
“The match is suspended. It can’t be played in these conditions,” referee Saul Laverni told reporters at Independiente’s Libertadores de America stadium after fans threw at least two more flares onto the pitch minutes.
“I can’t believe it,” said Independiente coach Americo Gallego, who returned to the club early in the season for a third spell as their coach and seemed to have steadied the boat with three wins and a draw in their previous five matches.
High-riding Belgrano were a goal up in the match, having scored four minutes before half-time when midfielder Jorge Velazquez brilliantly lobbed goalkeeper Hilario Navarro.
There is a bitter internal conflict between Independiente’s club management and the “barrabravas” hooligan element among their fans.
Club president Javier Cantero, voted in a year ago, vowed to rid Independiente of its barrabravas, attempting to ban them from all club activities and the ground.
Wednesday’s incident was the latest retaliation by the hooligan element of the fan base.
Independiente are three from bottom of the championship standings with 14 points from 13 matches and in danger of being relegated for the first time at the end of the season in June.
Time would seem to be on their side but relegation in Argentina is measured by teams’ average points over three seasons and the Red Devils are also in the bottom three of that table.
Velez Sarsfield won 1-0 at Quilmes on Tuesday to open a four-point lead at the top. Second-placed Newell’s Old Boys visit Boca at La Bombonera on Thursday.
Belgrano and Lanus, at home to lowly San Martin on Thursday, are joint third six points behind Velez.
The Argentine Football Association, which must rule on the suspended match, will probably order the remaining 45 minutes to be played behind closed doors.