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Tajik Soccer Fans Riot After 'Favoritism' For President's Son's Team

KULOB, Tajikistan -- Riots broke out in southwestern Tajikistan after angry fans accused soccer referees of favoring the team on which Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's son is a member, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Rahmon's eldest son, Rustam Emomali, sometimes plays for Tajikistan's reigning champion and current first-place team, Istiqlol Dushanbe. Istiqlol beat second-place Ravshan 1-0 in the city of Kulob on June 14 with a goal in the 90th minute.

After the final whistle a few minutes later, Ravshan fans attacked the police guarding the field and threw stones and other objects at the game's referees.

Witnesses said the fans were angry because they believe the referees called the game to Istiqlol's advantage. Fans who left the stadium attacked the Istiqlol team bus, players' cars, and even firefighters and ambulances near the stadium.

When rioting groups of fans got near Rustam Emomali -- who is also one of the owners of Istiqlol -- special police units blocked them, fired their guns into the air, and exploded special devises in order to disperse protesters.

Journalist Ahmad Ibrohim, who was at the game, told RFE/RL that at least five people were injured when the two teams' fans clashed.

Ibrohim said police detained several of the soccer fans but they were attacked as they took them to the police station. Witnesses said extra groups of police officers are patrolling the streets of Kulob.

The first game between Istiqlol and Ravshan, on May 3 in Dushanbe, ended with the same score.

Rustam Emomali, 25, is also the deputy head of the Tajik Football Federation and was elected a member of the Dushanbe city council in 2010, a position he has since resigned. He was most recently named by his father to head the Customs Service department that combats smuggling and customs violations.

Read more in Tajik here