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World Cup: Violence in Brussels after Morocco beat Belgium

November 27, 2022

Brussels police had to respond "harshly" and seal off parts of the city center as unrest erupted following Morocco's surprising victory. Police in the Netherlands also reported violence in major cities.

Violence in Brussels after the World Cup football match between Belgium and Morocco
Football supporters caused havoc in the center of BrusselsImage: NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/dpa/BELGA/picture alliance

Police used water cannons to disperse crowds in Belgium's capital after the mood turned sour during the country's shock defeat to Morocco at the FIFA World Cup on Sunday.

Even before the end of the match, "dozens of people, including some wearing hoodies, sought confrontation with the police, which compromised public safety," Brussels police said in a statement.

Rioters smashed shop windows, threw fireworks, and torched vehicles. Videos posted on social media showed people smashing the windows of a red car before flipping it and setting it alight.

Brussels police officers are pictured in the streets with a water cannon trying to subdue rioters
Police used a water cannon and tear gas after coming under attack from football supporters in the center of BrusselsImage: Yves Herman/REUTERS

Mayor Philippe Close condemned the violence, writing on Twitter that the police were forced to act "harshly."

"Those are not fans, they are rioters. Moroccan fans are there to celebrate,'' Close said later. 

Police have detained about a dozen people.

Violence also erupted in Antwerp, Belgium's most-populous city, and Liege.

"Sad to see how a few individuals abuse a situation to run amok,'' said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.

Clashes in the Netherlands

In Rotterdam, riot police clashed with a group of 500 football supporters who pelted them with fireworks and glass.

Officials also reported unrest in The Hague and in the capital, Amsterdam, where a car was set alight. 

Riot police were deployed to Amsterdam's Mercatorplein, a square in the city's west. The neighborhood is home to a large Moroccan community.

The Moroccan football team has a particularly massive following in the Netherlands, with the Dutch born winger Hakim Ziyech having started his career with Amsterdam's Ajax before transferring to Chelsea. 

Joy in Rabat

Meanwhile, in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, people spilled into the streets for spontaneous celebrations.

There was dancing, singing and waving of Moroccan flags, while drivers honked their horns as they drove through the streets of Rabat.

Sunday's victory against Belgium was Morocco's first win at a World Cup since they beat Scotland in 1998.

Both teams still have a chance of advancing to the last 16 of the tournament depending on how their final group stage matches go, with Belgium set to play Croatia and Morocco set to play Canada.

lo/fb (AFP, AP, dpa)