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Tunnel murals spark controversy

Dear Editor,

It is perhaps true to say health and safety aficionados and political correctness enforcers would have something of a field day in Portugal.

The recent game between Sporting and Porto has raised some interesting points. Pictures arrived in the national press of the “decorated” tunnel leading to the pitch at Alvalade.

Público newspaper publicised the “images that glorify violence” which was of little surprise to the green and white faithful.

The club was forced to issue a statement on the day of the match refuting any attempt at intimidation saying the murals showed scenes from all sorts of Sporting supporter groups and denying the newspapers’ allegations that there were undertones of extreme right wing beliefs in some of the images.

The tunnel walls at the José Alvalade stadium are liberally splashed with giant photos, not of young children holding their green and white scarves aloft, nor pretty girls bobbing about in their Sporting cheerleader outfits, but of masked men holding flares, hoodies staring menacingly, flare-wielding troops and heavily “bandaged” tub-thumping fatties with their shirts off and smoke canisters at the ready.

Another fan sports a black balaclava as his chosen headgear for the big game. Wrapped across the top of the mural is the legend “Bem-vindos” or, if you prefer, “Welcome”. Whether Sporting should be plastering its players’ tunnel with such images is another matter.

UEFA thinks not and has told the club to remove or cover them up for all UEFA games.   One of the images depicted in the murals shows a man with a smoke canister and this is where the second story begins.

Pictures emerged of the smoke “bombs” allowed into the stadium by Sporting’s directors as part of their effort to give Porto the warmest of welcomes, as the teams came out.

It would, recently elected Sporting President Sérgio Godinho said, “be one of the most emphatic visual signs of support ever seen in Portuguese football”.

For the fog bank that enveloped the stadium for ten minutes, delaying kick off and impairing the sense of smell, taste and sight of thousands of people, the Sporting directors deserve to be hauled over the coals.

How smoke canisters of Spanish origin that had to be wired to the front walls of the stands at both ends of the stadium could have been given official clearance is beyond comprehension.

Suffice to say, just one of these (they were the size of a half litre tin of paint and there were hundreds of them) would not have got into a single English Premier League stadium.

CHRIS WRIGHT, by email