In a shocking incident during the Europa Conference League clash between AZ Alkmaar and West Ham, the former’s fans attacked the visiting supporters at AFAS Stadion in the Netherlands. Chaos ensued as AZ fans attempted to break into the away stand, where West Ham fans, players’ friends, and families were seated. Some brave members of the Hammers squad intervened, holding back the onrushing hooligans, and a viral video made a West Ham fan, Knollsy, an overnight legend for his heroic act.
Despite the gravity of the attacks, UEFA’s punishment has left many baffled. AZ Alkmaar has been handed a paltry fine of just £68,670 (€80,000), broken down into various penalties: £6,115 for throwing objects, £12,870 for lighting fireworks, £6,867 for blocking public passageways, and £42,918 for crowd disturbances and failure to prevent spectators from moving between sectors. Additionally, AZ has been ordered to play one European game behind closed doors, though the suspension is for two years.
In contrast, recent financial fair play breaches led to fines for Manchester United, making AZ’s lenient penalty even more perplexing. Despite the seriousness of the incident, the Eredivisie outfit has not been banned from the next year’s Europa Conference League, a competition they have qualified for.
The situation might have turned far worse if not for the intervention of West Ham fans and players, who protected their families in the stand. Michail Antonio, Said Benrahma, Lucas Paqueta, and others jumped into the stand to defend their loved ones. AZ has responded by issuing stadium bans to 43 fans, while a Dutch TV show appealed to the public to identify those responsible.
In the match’s aftermath, West Ham secured a 1-0 victory, and with an aggregate score of 3-1, advanced to the final against Fiorentina. In a thrilling finale, West Ham emerged victorious, with Jarrod Bowen scoring a last-minute goal to secure a 2-1 win.
The incident has raised questions about the adequacy of UEFA’s response and the safety of fans attending matches. It remains to be seen how the authorities will address such issues in the future to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all football enthusiasts.