Maduka Okoye scares off Vitesse pitch invader, gets hit by bottle, before game is abandoned

  • Rob Swan
Sparta Rotterdam keeper scares off pitch invader, gets hit by bottle, before game is abandoned

Sparta Rotterdam goalkeeper Maduka Okoye was targeted by Vitesse fans shortly before Friday night’s Eredivisie clash was abandoned.

Okoye, who is on loan at Sparta from Watford, produced a Man of the Match display at the GelreDome, pulling off nine superb saves including a penalty.

Sparta were leading 1-0 and on course to secure all three points thanks to Adrian Dalmau’s fifth-minute goal when things took a turn for the worse.

One Vitesse fan managed to force his way onto the field before making a beeline for Okoye, who told the pitch invader in no uncertain terms to go away.

The fan then did a runner when it became clear that Okoye wasn’t prepared to be intimidated.

Shortly after that, though, Sparta’s goalkeeper went to ground when a bottle thrown by another Vitesse supporter hit him in the head.

Although there were only a couple of minutes left on the clock in second-half stoppage time, referee Rob Dieperink decided to suspend the game.

And when Sparta’s players refused to come back out, Dieperink had no option but to abandon the match.

What have Sparta Rotterdam said?

“Sparta Rotterdam is disappointed with the premature end of the match between Vitesse and the Kasteelclub,” a statement on their official website read. “A number of incidents piled up in stoppage time, as a result of which referee Rob Dieperink stopped the match.

“After a supporter first came onto the field towards the goalkeeper of Sparta, then the goalkeeper was hit by an object from the audience and then a fireworks bomb exploded right next to the goal, during which a cameraman was also unable to continue his work, the players of both teams directed inward.

“In the first consultation, the Vitesse security organisation indicated they found the situation safe enough from the side of the Vitesse supporters. Sparta indicated that we saw no problems with the Spartan fans in the guest section.

“The players, staff members, and the management of Sparta were of the opinion that safety could not be guaranteed, given the succession of incidents. As a result, the focus of our players was no longer fully focused on football and safety and that is the first priority for the entire club.”

Vitesse fans threatened with bans

Pascal van Wijk, Vitesse’s general director, told ESPN that those responsible can “expect a long ban from the ground”.

“It’s a dark day for the Vitesse family and their true fans, not for the two or three people who’ve ruined it,” he added, per Be Soccer.

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The Royal Dutch Football Federation (KNVB), meanwhile, have launched an official investigation.

“The match between Vitesse and Sparta has been stopped at a 0-1 score tonight [March 4, 2022] due to disturbances from the [home] public. This was done after consultation of the referee with both clubs,” read part of their statement, per Goal.

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