One of the more memorable sights on this past weekend of European soccer unfortunately had nothing to do with the play on the field. Now, Belgian authorities are getting involved.
First, the backstory: Central midfielder Steven Defour was once one of Standard Liege's biggest stars, leading the team to a run of success unseen in nearly a quarter century. Because of his performances, Portuguese club Porto bought Defour, but he failed to make a lasting impact over three seasons and elected to return to his native Belgium. Problem is, he decided to make his return with Standard Liege's biggest rivals: RSC Anderlecht.
The reception Defour received upon his return to Liege with Anderlecht over the weekend was, shall we say, not so kind:
Yes, that’s Defour’s disembodied head being held by a giant, Jason Voorhees-esque character. Yikes.
It would be tough for anyone to perform with a cool head after that kind of welcome, and Defour proved as much later by launching the ball full-speed into a group of fans after the referee had blown his whistle.
Defour was sent off for the offense, and that’s when all hell broke loose:
After such ugly scenes, Belgian authorities on Monday announced that they would be looking to levy sanctions against the fans responsible for the banner, which strikes some particularly sensitive nerves given recent beheadings of hostages by the extremist Islamic State group in the Middle East. These sanctions could include fines up to $5,000 and a stadium ban.
For its part, Standard Liege has distanced itself from the banner, claiming in a statement that supporters “deceived the club and its fans from the stand who were told that another image would be on the banner, which had nothing to do with Sunday’s.”