Fans remained patient well into the night and were still chanting as midnight approached.
Leroy said the Swedish fans were last to leave the stadium “because the police will escort the Swedish fans and players, who will obviously go straight to the airport and leave”.
“The police will create a security corridor for the Swedish fans so that they can return home safely,” he said.
The sight of fans locked inside a major European stadium was reminiscent of the scenes at the Stade de France outside Paris when France’s national stadium came under assault from Islamic State extremists during a match between France and Germany on November 13, 2015.
UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, confirmed the Belgium v Sweden match had been called off.
“Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels this evening, it has been decided after consultation with the two teams and the local police authorities, that the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden is abandoned,” UEFA said.
Belgium had already qualified for the championships to be held in Germany next year. The teams were tied 1-1 at halftime after Romelu Lukaku cancelled out Viktor Gyokeres’ opener.
According to Swedish media, some Sweden fans left the stands and were allowed in the media room in the stadium. One fan, Peter Lindqvist, who was at the stadium, told the Expressen newspaper that fans were urged to speak English and take a taxi once they were allowed to leave the stadium.
Players and officials supported the decision to call off the match.
“I found out during the break on the way down and the decision from all the players and managers, both us and Belgium, is obvious, that we cannot play the match. It is completely disgusting,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. “I get so sad. It is extremely tragic and I think of those affected and their relatives. What kind of world are we living in?”
Belgium’s crisis centre raised the level of threat in Brussels to the highest possible and asked citizens to avoid unnecessary travel.
The Swedish FA earlier said in a message to Swedish supporters on site that the Belgian police wanted fans to stay in the arena for security reasons.
“Keep calm and take care of each other,” the FA said. “Our thoughts go out to all the relatives of those affected in Brussels.”
Sweden raised its terror alert to the second-highest level in August after a series of public Koran-burnings by an Iraqi refugee living in Sweden resulted in threats from Islamic militant groups.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo suggested the attack, which took place more than an hour before the match, was linked to “terrorism”.
“A horrible shooting in Brussels, and the perpetrator is actively being tracked down,” said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, adding that she was joining government talks at the National Crisis Centre.
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