Fan attack on Sevilla goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic sparks renewed calls to protect players: ‘This has to stop’

Late in Thursday night’s Europa League match between PSV Eindhoven and Sevilla, a fan ran onto the field and managed to throw a punch at the Spanish team’s goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović.

Dmitrović was able to quickly wrestle his assailant to the ground and was assisted by players from both teams to keep him surrounded until security appeared. Dmitrović carried on playing in the match and was reported to be apparently unhurt, though ESPN noted a red mark forming on his neck during postgame interviews.

It was the latest in a series of pitch invasions that have renewed concerns about player safety. FIFPRO, the global players’ union, released a statement Friday calling on “fan groups, clubs and competition organizers to take more responsibility for safe working condition.” 

“Players are vulnerable when surrounded by thousands of supporters and the increase of attacks show a lack of protection and safeguards as much as they indicate a systemic problem of violence and abusive behavior in stadiums,” the statement read in part. 

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Sevilla manager Jorge Sampaoli spoke on the incident after the match, calling it a disgrace that the game had simply resumed.

“These acts have to be strongly punished. Otherwise, it will happen again and we will not know when it is time to stop when faced with these types of situations,” he added. “I truly don’t understand how the referee did not take another decision. If you accept this, from now on, anything could happen.”

Dmitrovic echoed that sentiment with a call for action to try and prevent a recurrence. 

“I never saw anything like it,” the goalkeeper said, according to the Associated Press. “I’m not going to say what I really wanted to do [to the pitch invader]. I’m glad I was aware of where he was coming from and was able to stop him, otherwise other things could have happened. He wanted to hit me, it’s unfortunate that this kind of incident happened on a soccer pitch. UEFA should do something, this has to stop.”

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Despite the two late goals in the second-leg of the league’s knockout stage playoff that allowed PSV to win, they were eliminated 3-2 on aggregate, giving Sevilla the room to advance.

UEFA did not immediately make a statement about the incident, but confirmed Friday to the AP that it has opened an inquiry. 

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