Aston Villa were forced into making a 1500-mile travel to face Bosnian side Zrinjski Mostar to finish off their UEFA Europa Conference League group stages. The match took place at a relatively tiny Stadion Bijeli Brijeg, whose 9,900 capacity was toned down to 6,600 for this European game.
The match didn’t really have any importance for the Villans, who are flying high in the Premier League and have established themselves as the dark horses in the title race. Even though they had already won their Europa Conference League group, Unai Emery’s side needed to follow UEFA protocols in at least participating in this match.
Despite the little significance of the game, a section of their die-hard supporters decided to make this tough trip with them to provide moral support. It appeared that 490 Aston Villa supporters actually made the 1500-mile journey, which included having to take various modes of transport and needing to spend nearly 8 hours on the road in order to reach Mostar from Birmingham.
On top of that treacherous journey, the Aston Villa fans were not at all given the royal treatment that their players received. Instead, they ended up being literally caged into a section like animals in a circus. This is actually what happened to 490-odd supporters that travelled to watch their first, and what might be the last match, in Mostar.
It appears that Zrinjski Mostar has a rather weird away section for the travelling supporters in their stadium. Every football stadium across the world has its own designated away section, which is created to ensure that the visiting fans can all sit together and (mostly) well away from the majority of the home fans.
Zrinjski Mostar have seemingly decided to cover up their away sections with steel structure all around to give the away supporters maximum protection from potential hooligans. However, in doing so, they have basically ruined the match-going experience for any supporters having to be seated in that stand.
With a huge steel structure in front of them and the section being towards the upper stands, the travelling fans will not get any proper vision of what is going on in the ground. They are made to sit way far away from the line of view from the pitch, meaning that only an eagle-eyed away team player will probably be able to spot their fans.
Not just that, but the caged section also seemed unsafe – with there being no bucket seats for the fans to sit in either. The Villa faithful had no option but to see out the 90 minutes with this kind of awful view, and Zrinjski Mostar has received a lot of criticism for their awful execution for an away section in this stadium.
A lot of fans have compared this stand to being similar to a prison and urged UEFA to take action against the Bosnian club for this awful treatment. Some have even wondered how bad some of the Bosnian supporters might be to have this kind of caged-like structure created for their away fans.
With that being said, UEFA have only encouraged stuff like this to happen by introducing the third tier of European football in the Europa Conference League. Villa will probably be happy that their players and supporters made it out of the game safely and can only hope that their future games are at places where their own faithful receive much better treatment and better seating too.