The ex-president of Sporting Lisbon Bruno de Carvalho was on Thursday acquitted of inciting a violent attack by fans on the soccer team’s players two years ago, as the Portuguese court sentenced nine of the attackers to five years behind bars.
In May 2018 a group of hooded Sporting fans armed with sticks and belts attacked players at the club’s training ground after the team failed to qualify for the Champions League.
Several players, including Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Dutch forward Bas Dost, quit Sporting as a result.
Bruno de Carvalho, who was voted out as president in June 2018, often used social media to criticise his players but had denied inciting any violence.
“I am innocent, they should have trusted me,” Carvalho told reporters outside the court in Lisbon after he was cleared.
“I gave everything to Sporting, I often put the club ahead of my life, my family. No citizen deserves to go through what I went through.”
Sporting is one of Portugal’s big three clubs, along with Benfica and Porto, having won the Primeira Liga 18 times.
“It is important that the whole world of sports come together so these events do not happen again,” Sporting said in a statement released after the court decision.
A total of 44 people were accused of various crimes following the attack.
Nine of the defendants were sentenced to five years each in prison, and 29 others were handed five-year suspended sentences.
One of the defendants given a suspended sentence confessed in court to having hit Dost with a belt during the attack.
Three other defendants were ordered to pay fines.
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