The UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg between Borussia Dortmund and AS Monaco has been postponed after the German team’s bus was attacked en route to the match. Reports suggest three explosions caused superficial damage to the team bus, with one player requiring surgery on his injured hand after the attack.
Local police told reporters that they are keeping their minds open to several possibilities. This includes considering this a terrorist attack or part of a supposed blackmail plot, according to The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive, Hans-Joachim Watze, told reporters at the stadium that his team’s players were “in shock” but that the fans and the club would “come even closer together and I’m sure the team will feel this.”
Reports suggest that the explosive devices were placed on a corner where the team bus would need to slow down as the Borussia Dortmund players made their way from the team hotel to the venue for the Champions League game, Westfalenstadion. Upon detonation, the explosive devices shattered windows of the Borussia Dortmund team bus.
Borussia Dortmund’s goalkeeper described the experience of the attack.
“The bus turned on the main road when there was suddenly a huge bang, a proper explosion. The police were quickly on the spot and handled the situation. We were all in shock…After the bang we all ducked and those who could lie on the floor did so. We didn’t know what was going to happen next.”
Shrapnel from the explosion has caused a Dortmund defender to require surgery on his hand, as it was fractured by the blast. Marc Bartra joined the German side last summer after moving from his native FC Barcelona, whom he had played for since 2010. Fellow Champions League quarter-finalists, the Spanish side showed their support for both the player and Borussia Dortmund via Twitter.
No other injuries have been reported.
The match, provisionally rescheduled to be played at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday, was called off by UEFA shortly before kick-off. Fans were kept inside the stadium as the German police ensured no further devices or threats had been placed in the vicinity. The police told supporters in Westfalenstadion, Borussia Dortmund’s stadium, that the authorities were “here in force” and that fans should ask them any questions they needed to.
In two acts of solidarity, fans of both sides sung “Dortmund, Dortmund” and waved the German side’s scarves, while Borussia Dortmund’s own social media streams trended the hashtag #bedforawayfans. This encouraged Dortmund fans to offer a bed to the French away fans who now hoped to stay an extra night to watch the rescheduled Champions League match on Wednesday.
Near the scene of the incident, a police drone flew overhead as the investigation began into the incident. Police confirmed at a press conference that they had located a letter close to the Borussia Dortmund bus, though at the time of writing they were not disclosing its details.
German newspaper Die Welt also reported that an unexploded suspect device had been found near Borussia Dortmund’s hotel after the attack as the police looked to ensure no further incidents.
That UEFA took the step to postpone the match reflected the seriousness of the incident. It may well have brought back memories to French football fans of the attacks in Paris in November 2015, when the Stade de France was one of several venues targeted by the attackers. On that occasion, the national side had already begun playing their friendly match against Germany and, to avoid panic, the game was seen to its conclusion despite the explosion being heard within the ground during the first half.
In another echo of Borussia Dortmund’s UEFA Champions League against AS Monaco, French and German fans left the Stade de France singing “Le Marseillaise” together, as they were evacuated from the stadium.
In the night’s other Champions League match, Juventus FC beat FC Barcelona 3-0 in Turin. The Italian side will be cautious to celebrate a UEFA Champions League semi-final berth too soon, however. FC Barcelona staged a heroic comeback in the previous round, and few would bet against the Catalan side repeating the feat.
The question of whether it will be Borussia Dortmund or AS Monaco who reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals has, for one night at least, been relegated in importance. Fans, players, and the clubs will be heartened by the support they have received from the wider football world as they show how their solidarity far exceeds any on-pitch rivalry.
[Featured Image by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Bongarts/Getty Images]