Benitez, Aguirre praise Atletico fans after UEFA ban

October 22nd, 2008 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Oct 22 (DPA) Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez and Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre praised Atletico fans, just days after UEFA harshly punished the Spanish club for serious incidents before and during the Oct 1 match against Olympique Marseille.Atletico Madrid fans, in turn, were preparing a curious protest against UEFA: they were planning to turn their backs on the pitch Wednesday at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid when the Champions League anthem is heard prior to the game against Liverpool.

The Spanish club’s supporters are outraged at the recent decision by UEFA to suspend the stadium for two games, although they reversed their initial decision to have the game against Liverpool played at least 300 kilometres from Madrid. The suspension is now set to go into force for Atletico Madrid’s next Champions League games.

Liverpool’s Spanish coach Benitez noted that “the best thing about Atletico Madrid are the fans”.

Aguirre, in turn, said he considered the ban unfair.

“I totally agree with closing any stadium in which there has been any evidence of racism, but I have never seen that in this stadium,” Aguirre stressed.

Benitez said he hoped Wednesday’s game would be “entertaining and beautiful,” and he dismissed the Madrid club’s recent poor results and form.

“They still have potential, good footballers and bad results against major teams,” Benitez said in a press conference in Madrid. “The team is still good, we are playing at the Calderon and it will be difficult. We expect a complicated rival which will seek the three points.”

The Liverpool coach, a native of Madrid, recalled that his own father was a staunch supporter of Atletico Madrid.

Amid rumours as to his own exit in case of a loss to Liverpool, Aguirre stressed he can take the pressure.

“It is normal that doubts and rumours emerge when things go badly and you suffer several consecutive defeats, but we are professionals and we have to be used to this pressure,” the coach said. “I cannot be distracted by rumours.”

Atletico fans were using the internet to promote the protest, although it remained to be seen whether the proposal was followed by many of the thousands that are expected to fill the stadium.

UEFA, in turn, is bound to watch Atletico Madrid fans closely, in the light of their earlier behaviour.

The governing body of European football blamed Atletico for having inadequate security in place both inside and outside their stadium, and for the crowd making racist chants and noises at Marseille’s black players.

UEFA also criticised the Spanish police for using excessive force when charging into the unruly sector of the Marseille fans.

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