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Rijkaard sent death threat as Sparta near drop

Friday 24th May 2002

Sparta Rotterdam coach Frank Rijkaard has received a death threat ahead of his side's vital last match in the relegation play-offs.

"The letter says the coach and his family are in danger if the board doesn't sack Rijkaard now," revealed caretaker chairman Cees Gerits. "We're taking it very seriously."

The message arrived at Sparta's Het Kasteel stadium on Tuesday, accompanied by a single bullet.

The club immediately stepped up security around the former AC Milan and Ajax star, but Gerits admitted he was shocked that the threat should be made just two weeks after the assassination of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn.

"I think it's inconceivable that there are still people in Holland after May 6 who can't deal in a normal manner with things that don't go the way they would like.

"I very much condemn and am repulsed by this threat and we will certainly not be intimidated by these sort of people," he thundered.

Gerits revealed that Sparta and the police had tried to keep the incident out of the public eye.

"We're very sorry that it couldn't be kept quiet. We would rather not have announced this. It can only further flare up emotions in society and possibly put an idea into somebody else's head," he said.

Rijkaard is reported to be remaining calm and ignored advice not to sit on the bench during Sparta's crucial relegation play-off with Excelsior on Wednesday night.

His presence didn't pay off, though, as his side suffered a 2-1 defeat and are now on the verge of relegation for the first time in the Eredivisie's 46-year history.

Sparta trail play-off group leaders Excelsior by three points with just one game left. Den Haag are two points further adrift, but have a game in hand.

NAC 2 - 2 PSV

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