Three teenage footballers will be charged with manslaughter, assault and public violence after the death of a linesman during a youth competition, Dutch prosecutors have said.
Prosecutors yesterday said they were charging the three players, two aged 15 and one aged 16, for their alleged involvement in a vicious attack on Richard Nieuwenhuizen, 41, after a youth match between two local Amsterdam clubs, Buitenboys and Nieuw Sloten, on Sunday.
Prosecutors have released no details of a possible motive and Buitenboys club chairman Marcel Oost said the reason for the attack was not certain.
“We still don’t have a clear picture yet,” prosecution spokeswoman Brigit Haan said.
The attack has sent shock waves through the football-mad Netherlands, with the sports minister, football association and coach of the country’s most famous club, Ajax, expressing disbelief and anger.
The Royal Netherlands Football Association yesterday said it was cancelling all amateur football matches for the coming weekend as a mark of respect for Mr Nieuwenhuizen. Professional matches will go ahead, but players and officials will wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence before kick-off.
“It is unbelievable that something like this could happen on a football pitch,” said Bert van Oostveen, the association’s director of professional football.
Amsterdam alderman Eric van der Burg, whose portfolio in the city covers sports, said the team from Nieuw Sloten had been in trouble twice before, once for verbally abusing a referee and once when a player got into a fight with a spectator.
He said the city already has an agreement from Ajax at the top all the way down to small local clubs to prevent aggression on and around playing fields.
“It’s important that parents but also the professional players give good examples how to behave,” Van der Burg said. “Sports should be fun.”
Fifa president Sepp Blatter said in a statement: “Football is a mirror of society and sadly, the same ills that afflict society – in this case violence – also manifest themselves in our game.
“Nevertheless, I remain convinced that football, through the example set by the tireless efforts of people like Mr Nieuwenhuizen, is a force for good.”
Prosecutors say a group of Nieuw Sloten players surrounded Mr Nieuwenhuizen after the match on Sunday, kicking and punching him.
Mr Nieuwenhuizen initially appeared to have recovered from the assault at the club, based in Almere, a fast-growing commuter city just outside Amsterdam. He went home and lay down, but returned later to watch another game. It was then that he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
A day later, with his family surrounding his bed, he died.
Nieuw Sloten immediately banned the players involved and removed their team from the league, as well as cancelling all matches for this weekend.
A delegation from the Royal Netherlands Football Association visited Buitenboys yesterday to discuss “a fitting way to pay tribute” to Mr Nieuwenhuizen and express support for the club.
Mr Nieuwenhuizen’s death came almost exactly a year after a Dutch amateur footballer fatally kicked a 77-year-old supporter following a match.
Amsterdam District Court last week sentenced the player, identified only as Silvester M in line with Dutch privacy law, to three years imprisonment for kicking the supporter so hard in the chest that his spleen ruptured. He died a month later.