[FIFA<20] Melee a global dust-up

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Melee a global dust-up

Jul 21, 2007 04:30 AM


daniel dale


A clash between Toronto police and Chilean soccer players after an Under-20 World Cup game Thursday night morphed into an international incident yesterday after the altercation made front-page headlines in Chile's morning newspapers.

The Canadian embassy in Santiago received a bomb threat and angry Chileans protested outside the embassy with signs reading "Racist Canada."

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet called the actions of police "clearly not justified," and Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Alejandro Foxley sent a diplomatic note to his Canadian counterpart, Peter MacKay, "to make them understand the malaise in Chile over what happened, the excessive violence, and to formally ask them to give us a detailed explanation of why this happened and who is responsible."

World soccer body FIFA said yesterday it was launching an investigation into the incident.

Back in Toronto, while rumours swirled that the Chilean team would skip the end of the tournament, the team announced it will play its consolation final tomorrow with as many as 14 injured players, several of them hurt in the post-game rumble with police.

According to eyewitnesses, police used pepper spray and a Taser to subdue members of Chile's team during an altercation near the team's bus after a testy semifinal loss to Argentina at the National Soccer Stadium at Exhibition Place. Nine Chilean players, including three of the team's stars, were detained but not arrested.

"You can't treat people, who have gone there to represent Chile in a sporting event, like this," Foxley said at a news conference.

A spokesperson for MacKay would not comment on the row.

In Haiti, the last stop on his four-country, six-day trip abroad, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters: "As we know, these international soccer matches are hotly contested and often become very emotional. As you know, there are processes in Canada by which the authorities review these kinds of incidents and I don't intend to comment further."

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said officers were forced to intervene when Chilean players got into an argument with a fan and "decided to direct some of their aggressive behaviour towards my officers."

He said officers acted in a "firm but fair" manner. "They are trained to do so, and that is what they did," Blair said in a prepared statement.

Chilean player Arturo Vidal disagreed when asked if the players started the fight.

"No, no. There was no provocation (from Chilean players)," he said outside the Westin Harbour Castle hotel yesterday. "We only wanted to talk to the people and (the police) attacked us like we were dogs."

Other Chilean players agreed. "We went to talk to the fans," Isaias Peralta told Chile's leading newspaper, El Mercurio. "The police wouldn't let us pass and all of the sudden one pointed a gun at me. I didn't know what it was, and all of the sudden they shot me with electricity."

Peralta, who still bore two red marks on his ribcage yesterday, said he was knocked unconscious by the Taser ? and then, he said, beaten by officers. "When I woke up 10 policemen were hitting me and punching me in the face."

Sepp Blatter, the president of world soccer body FIFA, said Toronto Mayor David Miller told him police were "rough" in their treatment of the Chilean players. But Miller later denied making the comment.

Blatter called the incident a "black mark" on the otherwise successful tournament, which has set an all-time record for Under-20 attendance.

"We have given the responsibility ... to the Canadian Soccer Association to deal with this matter with the relevant authorities and then to report in detail to FIFA," he said.

El Mercurio, echoing other Chilean papers, said Toronto police acted with "brutal aggression." The headline on the front page of La Cuarta, a tabloid, read "they looked for glory and found hell."The game against Argentina, a 3-0 Chile loss, was ill-tempered throughout. German referee Wolfgang Stark ejected two Chilean players and issued the team seven yellow cards.b>

After the final whistle, several Chilean players tried to approach Stark, but others kept them away. While Chilean fans yelled at the officials, police officers intervened to escort them from the field.

Some of the players had already boarded the team bus when the clash began.

After it started, said Canadian Press photographer Nathan Denette, "the bus just unloads and there's eight, 10 players come off the bus and there's just fists flying everywhere, between the cops, the security guards, a couple of ladies were involved that were security."

Players were seen throwing items from bus windows.

Chilean stars Matias Vidangossy, Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal were among those detained at the stadium and released.

Team doctor Luis Salazar told Chile's Radio Cooperativa that injuries sustained in the clash could prevent some players from playing in tomorrow's third-place game against Austria.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of the Chilean soccer team delegation, says the game had nothing to do with what happened outside the team bus.

"We apologize for the behaviour of our players after the game," he said. "(But) we cannot accept these kinds of things coming from the police. We will see what action we will take."


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Probe shows cops did nothing wrong in Chilean soccer scuffle

Canadian Press

July 30, 2007 at 3:51 PM EDT

TORONTO ? Toronto's police chief says an investigation into his force's scuffle with the Chilean under-20 soccer team reveals his officers did nothing wrong.

Bill Blair says the officers conducted themselves appropriately under "trying circumstances" during the July 19 incident, which drew condemnation from soccer fans and politicians alike in Chile.

Blair says Chilean players punched and spat at officers and tore arm and foot rests from the team bus to hurl at police. Four officers received minor injuries during the melee.

Blair says the Chilean consul general has been apprised of the findings.

The incident erupted as members of the Chilean under-20 World Cup team were getting onto their bus following their 3-0 semifinal loss to Argentina at the National Soccer Stadium in Toronto.

Police said they had to intervene when a dispute broke out between a Chilean player and a rival fan. The players say they were needlessly roughed up and clubbed by officers.

Members of the entire Chilean team, many of whom were bloodied and screaming following the brawl, were later detained by police at the stadium.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has called the situation serious and the country's foreign minister said he would send a complaint to his Canadian counterpart, Peter MacKay.


This article didn't mention it but another earlier today said that one Chilean team member said that a player punched a female officer in the face.

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My friends were at the that game and they said it got nuts at the end but they could hardly call it harsh police brutality because most of the cops were on the defensive.

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