As fans across Australia fixed their eyes on the Matildas in their history-making World Cup semifinal against England, vandalism and rowdy celebrations caused disturbance to the country's two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne, reported Xinhua.
In Sydney, more than 75,000 spectators flocked to Stadium Australia on Wednesday night to witness the Australia-England clash, while a concert was also staged concurrently at Qudos Bank Arena with a capacity of over 20,000 seats.
However, after both events ended, tens of thousands of people were left stranded at Sydney Olympic Park, unable to board a train home. Transport for the state of New South Wales sent out alerts notifying the public of the major delays due to vandalism of equipment at Ashfield in Sydney's inner west.
At around 10:00pm local time on Wednesday, two men broke into a restricted transport facility and damaged critical signaling infrastructure at the site.
The offenders were arrested and charged with multiple counts, including aggravatedly breaking, entering, and committing serious indictable offenses, endangering passengers on the railway, and destroying or damaging property.
"With a concert being held at Sydney Olympic Park and the Matildas playing — this couldn't have happened at a worse time," said NSW Premier Chris Minns. "We unreservedly apologize."
According to an update by the NSW government, engineers repaired infrastructure and brought services back online within 90 minutes, and crowds had cleared Olympic Park Station by midnight.
"It's disappointing something like this could occur on the rail network during one of the biggest events our city has ever seen," said Sydney Trains Chief Executive Matthew Longland.
"We would usually clear a massive crowd like Matildas' semifinal fans from Sydney Olympic Park Station within one hour; last night it took us two hours. I want to personally apologize to all our passengers impacted, and thank them for their patience," he added.
In Melbourne, Victoria Police spent a "challenging" night at the Federation Square, a live site for the FIFA Women's World Cup located in the heart of the city where over 12,000 spectators attended to cheer for the Matildas.
"They (barricades) were pushed over last night by crowds who were locked out of the site because it was at capacity, and they pushed it over," Victoria Police Acting Chief Commissioner Wendy Steendam told ABC Radio on Thursday morning.
The police officer noted that an "unruly crowd of youth" lit over 50 flares and sparked significant safety concerns among the local community.
Four men, aged from 16 to 23, were issued 962 Australian dollars (620 U.S. dollars) fines for possessing flares, and another 16-year-old male was cautioned for throwing a flare.
"When that happened, my daughter stood up and said 'Mom, we're getting out of here'," Andrea Hindle, an on-site fan, told 9News. "People were crushing us in the middle and then started carrying the barriers down, and it got quite dangerous."
"The kid next to us got hit in the leg with a flare. The girl in front of us got hit in the back with a flare," she recalled.
Following the incident, Federation Square axed its plan to host other World Cup live-streaming events.
"Unfortunately, due to the behavior of some last night, Fed Square will not operate as a live site on August 19 and 20, and will not be screening the games. To ensure the safety of the public and to accommodate larger crowds, the Melbourne live site will be at AAMI Park," the management team confirmed.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews condemned the behaviors, saying that it wasn't the night people wanted. "Flares are illegal and banned for a reason. They're really dangerous," the premier warned.
- Women’s WC