Gilles de Bilde, Anderlecht's Belgian international forward, narrowly escaped spending Christmas in prison after his televised assault on an opponent in a First Division match last weekend.
De Bilde spent Monday night behind bars and has been charged with wounding after punching Eendracht Aalst's Krist Porte in the face, breaking his nose and injuring his eye. Philippe Stratsaert, a police captain, said De Bilde was questioned and kept in jail overnight after Porte lodged a formal complaint.
De Bilde, 25, was taken for further questioning to the Brussels public prosecutor's office, which decided to release him on Tuesday morning, Philippe van Hecke, a deputy prosecutor, said. "De Bilde has been charged with voluntary wounding, causing inability to work," he said. Porte, who has been urged by his club to sue De Bilde, is expected to be out of action for months and may yet lose the eye. The Aalst player, who also suffered slight concussion, underwent surgery on Christmas Eve, but it may be weeks before the damage to the eye can be fully assessed.
The Belgian Football Association has suspended De Bilde, who will have to face a hearing next month. Anderlecht had already suspended the player, whom they signed from Aalst in 1995 after he won 's "player of the year" award the previous year.
The incident started when Porte pulled De Bilde's shirt to try to stop him from rushing towards goal as Anderlecht's Par Zetterberg took a penalty. De Bilde wrestled himself free from Porte, swung round and felled Porte with a left hook to the face - in front of television cameras. The referee did not see the incident and De Bilde, who is also due to stand trial for another assault, completed the match without even a caution.
De Bilde head-butted a male nurse and punched another nurse last August, when he was denied access to a hospital room where his father had been taken following a brain haemorrhage. He also received a suspended two- year prison sentence in 1992 for head-butting two boy-scout leaders. The Anderlecht coach has suggested he sees a psychiatrist.
The controversial topic of pay-per-view television is dividing football fans in the Czech Republic, where interest in the game is at a high level following their runners-up finish at Euro 96 last summer.
The Czech Football Association has announced plans to screen only pay- per-view league matches from the 1998-99 season. "Soccer is not public entertainment anymore, but pure business," claimed Jaroslav Vacek, a marketing executive employed by the Czech FA.
National team matches are also affected by similar commercial pressures. For the first time in 21 years, an international - last month's World Cup qualifier in Yugoslavia - was not shown live. "This would never have happened under communism," grumbled unhappy fans in Prague bars.