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Football fan dead after pre-match violence

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A Djurgården fan clashes with security officers on the pitch during the Helsingborgs IF- Djurgården match on March 30th 2014. Björn Lindgren /TT
18:15 CEST+02:00
The opening day of the Swedish football season began in tragedy after police confirmed that a supporter of Djurgården succumbed to his injuries after being beaten up in Helsingborg, southern Sweden, before the game.

He suffered grave head injuries after a fight broke out between rival fans of Djurgården and Helsingborgs IF in the city centre before the match started. Despite attempts to save the man's life he died in the local hospital shortly after arrival. 

"He was hit in the head - there was a lot of trouble before the match," police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford told the AFP news agency.

Police have indicated that the fan was hit over the head with an object.

"We are in shock in the Djurgården family and totally stunned by this episode. We can only send our thoughts to this person's family," said Djurgården football club press chief Gunnar Gidefeldt.

Authorities who arrived on the scene where the man was assaulted described the atmosphere as "spiteful" and have launched an appeal for witnesses.

The game between the two teams kicked off as normal at 3pm but quickly descended into chaos. Fans from Djurgården chanted 'murderers, murderers, murderers' at the home fans and there were angry scenes after Helsingborgs IF scored to make the game 1-1 midway through the first-half.

Shortly afterwards fans of Djurgården stormed the pitch, many of whom wore balaclavas, and the referee abandoned the game before half-time.

The victim is understood to have been 44-years-old and was a resident of Stockholm.

"It is incredibly tragic for this guy's family, for football and for all of society really," Jesper Jansson, sporting director of Helsingborgs IF, told TT. 

Police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford said there had been clashes between the two sets of supporters on Saturday night. Five fans were brought to hospital after a fight broke out in a Helsingborg pub while three fans were arrested and 33 others were taken into custody temporarily. 

Incidents of football violence have been on the rise in Sweden in recent years. Last year ten fans were held after a massive brawl in eastern Sweden. 

Sunday's tragic incident isn't the first episode of fan misbehaviour at the Olympia Stadium in Helsingborg. In 2012 The Local reported how a player from Malmö FF had been the subject of a death threat effigy during a match between the two Skåne rivals. 

Back in August 2002 a fan of IFK Gothenburg died when fans of Gothenburg clashed with AIK supporters. 

Sweden's Justice Minister has called for tighter legislation to improve the security at football games and for a change in attitude and culture in the wake of the tragedy. 

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Meanwhile, sports minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth said it was a "dark day" for Swedish football. 

"We've done a lot to make it safer inside stadiums ... but we know there  are strong emotions around football -- fighting breaks out before and after
matches," she told AFP. 

The minister added; "We still have a lot more to do ... It's a dark day for Swedish football."

At the time of writing police have not made any arrests in connection with the death. Both of the evening matches in the Allsvenskan went ahead as normal while the abandoned Helsingborgs IF - Djurgården will likely be rescheduled. 

The Local/pr

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