Belgium coach Marc Wilmots understands the decision to cancel Tuesday night’s friendly against Spain due to an increased terrorist threat, saying: “A human life is worth more than a game of football.”
The decision to postpone the match, which was due to take place at the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels, was taken late on Monday evening because of security fears in the wake of the Paris terror attacks which killed 129 people, with arrests made in Belgium. The Belgian Football Association (KBVB) confirmed the “terror alert level is high” and after consulting with their Spanish counterparts, took the precaution of cancelling the encounter. The KBVB said “we cannot take any security risk with players and fans”, and Wilmots seemed to be in agreement.
According to Marca, he told reporters outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel: “A human life is worth more than a game of football. I was informed at 11.30pm last night that we weren’t going to play the game, and this morning everyone else was informed.
“Thousands of matches are played all the time, one more or less makes no difference.”
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque held an impromptu press conference from the national team’s plane following the cancellation of the friendly between the reigning European champions and the world’s top-ranked team.
He said: “We were hoping to play the game, it was the last of the year, but the security reasons were strong.
“It’s not to be and the best thing is to return to Madrid as soon as possible and for the players to go back to their clubs.”
He added of their short stay in Belgium: “We weren’t scared. We were calm in the hotel, there wasn’t any problem.
“We trained with tranquillity, we’ve prepared for the game like any other, but the authorities will have felt they couldn’t guarantee the security of everybody, the players and spectators.
“Hopefully there won’t be any more suspensions. We’re here to play sport and entertain people.”
Friday’s terror attacks in Paris led to concerns about security for next summer’s Euro 2016, which are to be held in France, but Del Bosque hopes the tournament goes ahead as scheduled.
He added: “Hopefully the European Championship will be held in France and in complete normality.”
A statement from the KBVB said: “In consultation with the competent authorities and the Spanish national team, the Belgian FA has decided to cancel the match.
“At the very end of the evening the Belgian FA was contacted by the government, who made the recommendation not to play tomorrow’s match. This is because the terror alert level is high and with the current leakage of a suspicious person.
“We deeply regret that such a friendly match between two motivated teams has been cancelled so late and we understand the disappointment of many supporters.
“However, taking into account the exceptional circumstances, we cannot take any security risk with players and fans.
“Ticket holders will get more information about tickets in the course of this week.”