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Belgium: action sought after banner shows beheading



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BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian authorities and the country's football federation on Monday sought action against Standard Liege fans who displayed a massive banner showing a drawing of a beheaded Anderlecht player ahead of their weekend match.

Sunday's banner reading "Red or Dead" referred to the Standard colors and also showed a drawing of a masked man with a huge knife and the head of Anderlecht midfielder Steven Defour, who used to play for Standard before moving to arch rival Anderlecht.

Condemnation was near-universal and Ann Cossement of the interior ministry said that authorities were looking at punishment to go as high as a five-year stadium ban and a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,000) because of "incitement to hatred against one person."

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, a Standard Liege fan, already called the banner "tasteless, stupid and unacceptable."

Defour has often said negative pressure from fans only spurs him on to perform well, but, on Sunday, it did not work out that way.

He was sent off in the match, that Standard won 2-0, for a second yellow card when he hit a powerful shot into the stands after the referee had blown his whistle. Defour said he had not heard the whistle and shot the ball out to allow a Standard player be treated for an injury. Many interpreted it as an act of anger and frustration at the fans.

Standard said it had been misled by its fans. "They 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," Standard said in a statement.

The image came from a "Friday the 13th" movie, but it also raised chilling comparisons with the recent beheadings of the extremist Islamic State group.

Standard versus Anderlecht is possibly the fiercest rivalry in Belgian football. One huge banner last year had a scene based on the mafia movie "Scarface" with the Standard coach holding an automatic rifle and shooting, making a huge purple blot, the colors of Anderlecht.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Raf Casert

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