Spain-Belgium friendly soccer match canceled over attack risk

Decision follows Belgian government report warning about danger of further terrorist action

Video: The Spanish soccer team heads home on Tuesday morning.Video: L. Moñino
Ladislao J. Moñino

Tuesday’s friendly match between the Spain and Belgium national soccer teams in Brussels has been canceled over fears that it could be the target of terrorist violence following Friday’s Paris attacks.

The decision was taken shortly after midnight on Monday after Belgium’s crisis cabinet issued a report revealing the existence of an imminent threat of Islamist attacks in the country.

At 12.30am, Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque was still unaware of the cancellation. Half-an-hour later, Spain’s national soccer federation confirmed the decision.

At 12.30am, Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque was still unaware of the cancellation

In a press conference held before the decision was made, Del Bosque had said that it was important to play the game despite the Paris attacks, in order not to yield to the terrorists.

“I am not scared,” he said. “We’re here to play a game and everything is going to be fine.”

Regarding the possibility of no longer playing next year’s European Championship in France, Del Bosque was adamant: “I would like for it to be played in France; nobody should change the decision to play in a country, because that would be favoring those who sow terror.”

But following a warning issued by the Belgian Interior Ministry, a committee made up of Spanish and Belgian police and the Spanish and Belgian soccer federations decided to pull the plug on the game.

The Spanish side left its Brussels hotel early Tuesday to travel to the airport and is expected to land in Madrid later this morning.

English version by Susana Urra.

Heightened surveillance at seaports and airports

Jesús Duva

Spain’s Interior Ministry has beefed up surveillance at border checkpoints, seaports and airports in a bid to prevent terrorism suspects from entering the country.

National Police have also increased surveillance of suspects who were already under investigation.

Counter-terrorism experts are demanding better technical resources to carry out their duties, including online communications interception systems.

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