Grasshopper Club Zurich are historically the biggest club in Switzerland. But for the first time in 68 years, Grasshoppers were relegated to the second division with this weekend’s loss to Luzern. This didn’t sit well with fans, who communicated their anger quite directly to the players by making their way to the sideline barriers during the Luzern match, threatening to rush the field unless the players handed over their shirts and socks, and causing such a ruckus that the authorities decided to just call the game off without finishing it.
The situation got out of control starting in the 67th minute of the game, when Grasshoppers were already down 4-0 to fourth-place Luzern. (Aside: the wonderfully-named Blessing Chibuike Eleke scored two of those goals.) A loss on Sunday would leave Grasshoppers 12 points back of Neuchâtel Xamax for a spot in the relegation playoffs, sealing their relegation with only three games left to play.
Essentially, it was win or go home for Grasshoppers, and the fans made sure to not let them go home in peace:
After the initial commotion, the decision was made to send the players, starting with goalkeeper and captain Heinz Lindner, over to the fans (most of whom concealed their faces with black hoodies and sunglasses) to try to make peace:
Eventually, the players did give up their shirts before heading off the field, something that Grasshoppers president Stephan Rietiker said was necessary, despite his own misgivings about being blackmailed by his own supporters: “I went against my heart and agreed to giving up the shirts. It was the best thing to do in this situation otherwise we could have had hooligans in the dressing-room.” He also called for the Swiss Super League to do more to stamp out hooliganism.
After a 15-minute delay to deal with the situation, the game was simply called off at 4-0. This is actually the second time this year that Grasshoppers have had a match called off: back on March 16, the club was losing 2-0 to Sion when their fans lobbed fireworks onto the field, requiring a full stoppage to that game and a 3-0 forfeit loss for the Grasshoppers.
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