Sports title celebrations marred as fans clash with riot police

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LISBON, May 11 (Reuters) – Sports fans celebrating Portugal’s league title for the first time in nearly two decades clashed with riot police on Wednesday morning.

Fans had gathered outside the Sporting stadium in Lisbon on Tuesday night where their side beat Boavista 1-0, jumping in joy, hugging, waving flags and shouting ‘Champions’ as hundreds of cars honked in celebration .

Sporting striker Paulinho scored the game’s only goal in the 36th minute as he slid to meet a Nuno Mendes cross and head the ball into the roof of the net.

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Ruben Amorim’s side cruised to victory to clinch the club’s 19th league title and end Porto and Benfica’s 19-year stranglehold on the league.

Sporting, who are still unbeaten with two games to go, have 82 points after 32 matches, an unassailable advantage of eight points over second-placed Porto.

Shortly after the game, fans spread across the city and thousands gathered in Lisbon’s main square, Marques do Pombal, one of the stops where Sporting players paraded the trophy in an open top bus.

Some broke metal barriers put in place to prevent them from getting too close to the bus, prompting riot police to fire rubber bullets and use batons to disperse the crowd.

Ambulances rushed to the square to help several injured supporters.

Some supporters threw glass bottles and smoke bombs at police officers and journalists.

‘INCREDIBLE HAPPINESS’

No fans were allowed into the stadium due to COVID-19 restrictions. Outside the stadium and around Lisbon, some fans ditched face masks, while maintaining social distancing became nearly impossible as more people showed up.

Police had warned fans not to gather in large groups and urged them to practice social distancing and wear a mask at all times, with spokesman Domingos Antunes saying he hoped the celebration would not turn in “nightmare”.

Although the title celebrations ended in clashes, some of the young fans among the huge gathering outside the stadium on Tuesday night enjoyed an evening to remember: the first time they saw their club win the title.

“It’s an incredible happiness that cannot be explained,” said Diogo Carregosa, 20, to Reuters. “I’ve waited a long time for this moment.”

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Juventus, took to social media to congratulate Sporting, where he started his career. “Many congratulations to the champions,” he wrote on Instagram.

Nayara, a 24-year-old Sporting fan, cried saying: “Sporting won the championship the year I started school and today when I finish school Sporting is at new champion… 19 years is a long time. It’s a dream.”

Sporting’s fierce campaign was hard to imagine when they finished fourth last season, 22 points behind champions Porto, and struggled to fill the void left after talismanic captain Bruno Fernandes joined Manchester United.

The title win completed a huge turnaround in fortunes for the club three years after the team were attacked by angry fans at the training ground.

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Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Toby Davis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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