It was just before 6 p.m. on Tuesday when reporters first spotted the group of masked men running in the road near Sporting CP’s training ground at Alcochete, about 20 minutes outside Lisbon. “Let’s go inside,” one remembers hearing. There was fear in the voices around him, an immediate expectation of the nightmare to come.

The mob was 50 strong. Security guards were unable to prevent them from entering the training centre, where Sporting, Europe’s 37th-ranked football club and one of Portugal’s most storied, were preparing to train. Forcing its way into the locker room, the group launched a brutal attack on players and the coaching staff, beating them with belts, fists and sticks.

“Vamos-vos matar [sic]! Voces estao fodidos!” the assailants screamed, according to a Public Prosecution Service document based on the players’ testimonials, revealed by Portuguese magazine Sabado. Or, “We’re going to kill you! You are f–ked!”

Dutch forward Bas Dost, who has scored 34 goals this season, was beaten up and thrown to the floor, with visible wounds to his head and legs. The 6’4″ man broke down crying while he watched his colleagues being assaulted by the hooded gang, according to sources close to the players. An alarm blared in the training centre, giving it the feel of a war zone.

Players feared for their lives. “They thought it was the end of it for them,” Jaime Marta Soares, president of Sporting’s general assembly, told Portuguese media outlet Expresso. “It was inhumane.” No one was killed, but one player’s agent told Bleacher Report that his client was left “OK physically” but “psychologically destroyed.”

It was a shocking scene of violence that propelled the club—perhaps most famous for being Cristiano Ronaldo’s first professional side—into horrific international headlines while it should have been preparing for Sunday’s Portuguese Cup final against Desportivo das Aves. Local newspaper icalled the incident “A guerra de Alcochete” or “The Alcochete War” and featured an image of Sporting’s president, Bruno de Carvalho, dressed as a guerrilla on the front page.

Perhaps even more shocking, though, is what we’ve learned about this attack in the days since.

According to sources close to the players, many believe that De Carvalho himself instigated the attack. He has denied that accusation, but A Bolaand Record have also reported the same suspicions. On Friday morning O Publico went further, reporting that Sporting coach Jorge Jesus has evidence to support the allegations against De Carvalho.

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