Sunday’s Belgium-Morocco match is causing great tension in Brussels. Several cafe owners will not broadcast the match and the police will send reinforcements and water cannons. All for fear of riots after the match, just like five years ago after Morocco qualified for the World Cup.
Amaury Michaux and Dirk Coosemans
The Belgium-Morocco match is considered a high-risk match, as large groups of Belgian and Brussels supporters of Moroccan origin are expected to congregate in the city centre, on the Beursplein.
The police do not want to give details about the deployment, but we understand from well-informed sources that nothing is left to chance. “We are prepared for the worst,” he said. Reinforcements from the federal police will be deployed and several water cannons will also be on standby. The fear of the police is mainly that wrought-up supporters will mix behind the Beursplein with the sluggish visitors of the Christmas market, and that there will be riots there.
The merchants in the area are equally frightened. “We will not broadcast the match”, say the owners of the brasserie Falstaff, next to the Beurs. “We are really scared,” says Assia Amekrane of Falstaff. “We hope for a draw. That is the best chance that nothing will be broken down here.”
In the brasserie they have not forgotten the previous collision with football hooligans. Fans of football clubs RSC Anderlecht and Young Boys Bern got into a fight at the end of August, causing major damage to the case. The windows are still not repaired.
At café Affligem, the matches of the World Cup are all broadcast. “We probably won’t put our terrace outside on Sunday afternoon, but otherwise we have not taken any measures,” says manageress Marion Hartoch. “If things threaten to get out of hand, we just lock the doors. That way we can protect our customers and the furniture.”
Five years ago, major riots broke out in the center of Brussels after Morocco qualified for the World Cup at the expense of Ivory Coast. In the riots, 22 police officers were injured and shops were looted. Several rioters were subsequently sentenced to community service.