A 10-YEAR-old girl was ‘‘a few millimetres’’ from losing an eye after being struck by a rocket flare fired from among Dandenong Thunder soccer club supporters at last Sunday week’s Victorian Premier League grand final.
Detective Senior Contable Jens Bertelsen, of Victoria Police’s Melbourne CIU branch, called for club supporters to reveal the culprits who threw and fired a variety of flares at the evening game at AAMI Park.
‘‘I’d like the club to assist the Victorian police. I can’t say the board know who it is but I’m certain the supporters do.
‘‘We need people to identify them to make the game safer for players and supporters.’’
The offenders face possible charges of discharging a missile and conduct endangering persons. The latter charge could potentially lead to ‘‘jail time’’.
Detective Bertelsen said the rocket flare - thought to be fired from an emergency flare gun — had travelled about 50 metres, ricocheted off a sign and struck the girl on the face.
It caused minor burns but ‘‘could have been much worse,’’ he said.
‘‘[The flares] travel at the rate of knots. They burn really hot, they’re hard to put out.
‘‘It was only a few millimetres from her losing an eye.’’
The girl’s friend, a 12-year-old girl, was struck on the shoulder by the same flare. Their two families were sitting together at the game.
Police have been unable to identify offenders from inconclusive CCTV footage at the stadium.
They had not heard back from Dandenong Thunder since making inquiries.
The casing of the flare and two hand-flung varieties ignited that night were taken for police forensic analysis.
He said there was a ‘‘bit of tension’’ between the Thunder and its opponents Oakleigh Cannons — but no more than between other football clubs.
He said he wanted to ‘‘keep soccer family-friendly and a safe place to see the game’’.
Last Monday, the Journal reported on YouTube footage showing a rocket fired from within the Thunder’s fans behind goals.
The rocket damaged a sign on the top level near the wing and ignited among fans on ground level. Another rocket hit the grandstand’s roof and ricocheted among Thunder supporters.
FFV spokesman Gordon Irving said it was holding a "football-related" inquiry into the firing of six flares.
He expected the Thunder will face an independent tribunal within the next two weeks.
"The club will need to go to our independent tribunal. It’s very dangerous and that’s why we’re conducting an investigation."
The incidents came during a season of previously unblemished crowd behaviour at Thunder games this year, he said.
The club had been put on notice last year over a series of assaults, spitting incidents and referee abuse among crowds at its games. In May last year, the FFV penalised the club after its third serious incident in 14 months.
It handed down a $20,000 fine, loss of six points and two "lock-out" home games that were not open to fans.
Thunder treasurer Ronnie Mustafai last week said the club should not be held accountable by the FFV for "one silly supporter’s deed".
"We’re not apologising for what happened. If we can, we will support AAMI Park, the police, the FFV to find out who it is, and deal with the individuals."
Mr Mustafai took aim at AAMI Park security for failing to stop flares being smuggled into the stadium.
Detective Bertelsen today said AAMI Park security was ‘‘trying the best they can’’ to detect flares brought inside the stadium.
‘‘There are a number of ways to secret flares into a football match.’’