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'The worst match I've been to': Wolves fans on chaos and crushing outside Braga stadium

By Megan Archer | Wolverhampton | Wolves | Published:

"It was like they were making a conscious effort to treat us like animals. It was frightening."

Fans pushed up against the turnstiles in Braga. Photo: Lee Tompson

Frustrated, cold, wet – but most worryingly – terrified. It was meant to be an exciting trip abroad to watch Wolves play Braga in the Europa League – but for some it turned out to be the worst match experience they had ever encountered.

Supporters were hit with batons by police, people were crushed into small spaces in the pouring rain mand parents begged stewards to let their crying children through – only to be pushed back by officers dressed in riot gear.

Security were only letting small groups of fans into the stadium at a time and videos showed a chaotic situation at the turnstiles with large groups of fans pushed up against the barriers.

Dave Johnson went to watch the match with his two brothers and a few friends. But the 34-year-old said the night was "chaos" – he blames poor organisation from Portuguese police and match stewards.

Mr Johnson, from Hednesford, said: "There was a real lack of organisation and understanding of how to manage a crowd. People were getting frustrated and that's when the pushing started.

Police dressed in riot gear were herding Wolves fans

"It was frightening. People were packed in and getting crushed. I saw a child crying his eyes out, and his dad was trying to get the steward to let him just lift him over the fence but he got pushed back. It was scary for us, let alone any kids there.

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"My brother was hit with a baton, on the side. He's ok but has a bit of a bruise. But it was just unnecessary, all of it. It was like they were making a conscious effort to treat us like animals. It was frightening. It was far worse than any other match I've ever been to."

Wolves fans were forced to wait in a field after the match had kicked off. Photo: Lee Tompson
The scene outside the Braga Municipal Stadium. Photo: @_georgewwfc

Some fans reported a wait of 90 minutes to make it into the Braga Municipal Stadium, with police keeping fans in groups on a muddy field next to the ground before allowing them through just a handful of turnstiles.

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Supporters said they faced aggression from police and had items confiscated including bags, flags, umbrellas, and phone chargers. Some of these were dumped in bins by the home security while others were left in the mud for fans to retrieve afterwards.

One fan said guards tried to take his tablet off him, despite it having his boarding passes on, but a local shopkeeper kept it safe until after the match.

Bags, flags and chargers confiscated

Meanwhile Wolves stewards who travelled with the away fans delved through the bins to retrieve the confiscated flags and hung them up outside the ground in a bid to return them to their rightful owners.

While Dave and his group managed to make into the stadium 15 minutes after the game began, many fans missed the first half and were not able to see their side score three times.

Queueing Wolves fans outside the Estádio Municipal de Braga. Photo: Pete Carvell

Pete Carvell, of London Wolves Supporters Club, said the behaviour of the security was "ridiculous" with one member of his group even having his apple confiscated off him.

"We had phone chargers, flags and strangely an apple confiscated but managed to recover most items after the game. Many Wolves fans weren’t so lucky. Possessions were strewn all over the floor in the mud when we emerged from the ground at full time," he said.

"We arrived at the ground about fifteen minutes before kick off but soon found ourselves stood outside in the rain and mud whilst police held back hundreds of Wolves fans. Reason for this were not apparent.

"There were no queues ahead of the police cordon and some of the police were being heavy handed, seemingly unprovoked. Generally Wolves fans were well behaved, even to the extent of celebrating Jimenez’s equaliser in good spirits while patiently waiting to be searched and let in."

Wolves stewards tried to retrieve flags which were confiscated outside the ground

It came after Wolves supporters were "ambushed" by "organised groups" of hooligans in Porto in two nights of violence in the city.

The travelling supporters were involved in several clashes after being targeted by hooligans believed to be supporters of Belgian club Standard Liege.

According to Portuguese media, one Wolves fan was arrested and 16 Belgians were "identified" by police.

A UEFA spokesman said they were “awaiting reports from delegates at the match” before deciding whether to take action.

Wolves have been contacted for comment.

Wolves fan has panic attacks in chaotic queue

Wolves fan Kate Wright, aged 39 and from the Netherlands, describes the "absolute chaos" she and other supporters faced outside the Braga Municipal Stadium on Thursday evening.

"We got to the ground about 40 minutes before kick off and found a huge number of fans standing in a huge disorganised queue in the pouring rain, not moving. More fans arrived and started to get frustrated at the lack of movement. Just before kick off, we are all still penned in.

"The riot police at the front started baring their batons. A child in front of me started to become really distressed and started crying. I tried to calm him down with his dad. By this time there was more pushing and my personal space was becoming smaller and smaller and I was struggling to breathe. I then experienced a panic attack where I started hyperventilating and shaking. Luckily my husband and other Wolves fans helped me, the young kids and his dad through to the front.

"On kick off we were all moved ahead across a muddy bog to another queue. We were all then penned into another queue. More and more people were starting to become distressed. A girl next to me was in floods of tears. A crush ensued and I started hyperventilating again. I was pulled out to the side before it got any worse.

"More and more fans were getting angry and frustrated with the Braga police's heavy handed tactics in managing the crowd. They were searching people two at a time, discarding many personal items they deemed as "potential weapons".

"Twenty five minutes into the game we were finally let in. They seemed to have given up with their high security checks at this point. The Wolves representatives inside the ground were appalled at our treatment and told us to just take a seat anywhere. We got in on 28 minutes.

"We were herded like cattle. No regard was given to safety of the many fans outside that included many children, women and elderly fans. They seem to want to provoke us, but thankfully our fans didn’t rise to it. It was absolute chaos and could have resulted in serious serious injury or even worse."

A Wolves spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issues a section of our supporters encountered upon trying to enter the stadium for last night’s Europa League match in Braga.

“A number of Wolves staff were present at the time and expressed their concerns to UEFA officials during and after the match.

“We have also had correspondence from some supporters today who we will be responding to individually.

“We are now compiling a full report of our observations to share with UEFA and the Football Association.”

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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