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Player death threat mars Swedish football match

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Player death threat mars Swedish football match
16:10 CEST+02:00
A match between rival south Sweden football clubs was nearly called off on Monday after supporters from Helsingborg unfurled a banner calling for the murder of a player on opposing side Malmö FF.

"Simon Thern should die," read the banner unrolled by Helsingborg fans who were cheering on the hometown side in what has grown to be one of the fiercest rivalries in Sweden's top football league, the Allsvenskan.

The death threat also included a doll wearing a t-shirt that said "Thern" and outfitted with a noose around its neck hanging next to the banner.

Simon Thern, the object of the threat, had previously played for Helsingborg before joining Malmö last year.

Coupled with mounting supporter violence before and during the match, the threat prompted police and club officials from Helsingborg to nearly call off the game.

"We were ready to stop the match. These are incredibly cowardly people who do things like this," said Helsingborg club spokesperson Fredrik Ericsson to the Expressen newspaper.

"We from the club's side take the incident very seriously. We held talks and were prepared to stop the match because of [the threat]."

Ericsson explained, however, that there was little else for the club to do, emphasizing that the death threat directed against Thurn was a "police matter".

The threat was the latest example of the growing rivalry between the two clubs.

Last season the game in Malmö was abandoned after a firework hit a player who was later assaulted by a rival fan.

As the banner calling for Thern's death was taken down after seven or eight minutes, Helsingborg officials ultimately decided to let the match go on.

Ericsson explained that it was hard to combat such stunts because the fans responsible "protect one another".

"We have surveillance cameras and pictures of it. But you can't see anything on the faces of those who did it. They have hoods and are covering their faces. You can't see a thing," he told Expressen.

Following a scoreless first half, the match ended in a 1-1 after Malmö equalized with five minutes left in the match to salvage a point.

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