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Police still hunting for tear gas suspect

Spanish police are still searching for the individual who threw a tear gas canister onto the pitch during Saturday night’s La Liga game between Villarreal and Celta Vigo at El Madrigal.

Villarreal's Jonathan Pereira kicks the smoke bomb, which held up play for 20 minutes.
Villarreal's Jonathan Pereira attempting to clear the canister from the pitch on Saturday..

A can spewing gas was thrown from the stands with time almost up in the game, and play had to be stopped while players left the pitch and the ground was evacuated as the gas was causing distress among the 14,195 spectators present.

Fifteen fans were reportedly injured by the gas, with four brought to hospital with eye problems, although nobody was seriously hurt. According to AS, police are now reportedly looking for a male suspect of about 30 years of age, 1.70 metres tall, who was dressed in dark clothes.

El Pais reports that the gas canister was apparently of “military use” according to police sources, with one theory being that the individual who brought it to the ground had a personal grudge against the club’s owners.

Villarreal coach Marcelino condemned the individual's actions, while club president Fernando Roig told El Larguero that he hoped the perpetrator was found and brought to justice.

“All I know is that the police are working on discovering who it is,” Roig said. “We have no news. He must have bought this stuff I do not know where, and hidden it on his body to get in.

“It is impossible to describe -- someone who wanted to do a lot of damage. We are hoping that we can identify him from the cameras at the ground. We want the full force of the law to fall on this person.”

Given the seriousness of the incident, La Liga authorities could punish Villarreal, and even order four or more future games to be played behind closed doors.

However, Roig said that would be unfair given whoever was responsible had not been acting in the club’s interests.

“It was someone who wanted to do damage to a lot of people, and to the club of Villarreal,” he said. “It was not a Villarreal fan because it had nothing to do with the play, the ball was in the other half of the pitch. We were losing 1-0 with a few minutes left.”

When the gas cleared, the players returned to the pitch and played out the final few minutes of the game, with Celta scoring again to complete a 2-0 victory.

The incident followed Atletico Madrid being fined 600 euros last Friday after an unidentified supporter threw a cigarette lighter at Cristiano Ronaldo during Real Madrid’s 2-0 Copa del Rey semifinal second leg win at the Estadio Vicente Calderon the previous Tuesday.


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