Basque Country crowds urged to disperse before Copa final

Authorities in Spain’s Basque Country region on Saturday called on fans of Athletic Bilbao to break up street gatherings that formed ahead of their team’s Copa del Rey final against fierce rival Real Sociedad

A few thousand Bilbao fans violated public health restrictions in place for the coronavirus pandemic when they rallied in rowdy, tightly packed groups in Bilbao city center. Videos published by Spanish radio Cadena SER showed at least one trash container in flames near a crowd of mostly young people, many wearing Bilbao’s red-and-white shirts.

Bilbao’s police made pleas on social media for the crowds to go home. The city’s mayor also criticized the gatherings.

“Some lunatics are provoking incidents before the final. And what about the families that are suffering from COVID and cannot enjoy this historic day? You do not represent the values of Athletic or our city,” mayor Juan Mari Aburto wrote on Twitter.

The match between the two Basque teams was 0-0 at halftime on Saturday night in Seville’s La Cartuja Stadium. No fans have been allowed into the final, which was postponed from the end of last season when the pandemic struck.

Spain is also currently prohibiting travel between regions, meaning that no fans should be able to travel to southern Seville from the northern cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián, home to Real Sociedad.

Spain’s soccer federation had waited until now to hold last year’s cup final in hopes that the pandemic situation would improve enough to allow spectators into the match.

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