From Associated Press
At least four players from the Argentinian club Arsenal de Sarandi were detained for interrogation after a confrontation with Brazilian police at a Copa Libertadores match on Wednesday.
Police said at least two officers and a journalist sustained minor injuries in the brawl after Atlético Mineiro’s 5-2 win in the city of Belo Horizonte.
Authorities said the players will likely be charged after throwing punches and kicking the officers who were trying to protect the referees as the final whistle blew at the Independência Stadium. Television images showed some of the players who were not immediately identified attacking the officers, who used shields and batons to protect themselves.
Some officers also had shotguns loaded with rubber bullets, although a local police official Claudia Romualdo said no shots were fired at players. Police were prepared to use tear gas to control the situation but it was not needed. The altercation began after several Arsenal players approached the match officials following the match to complain. Some police officers immediately arrived, shoving the players away and upsetting the Argentinians. The confrontation continued as police tried to escort the players from the field.
“The officers were positioned to provide safety to the visiting players so they could go into the locker rooms, but inexplicably they attacked the officers again as they left the field,” Romualdo said. She said one of the players hit her with a kick to her chest. “What happened here is deplorable,” Romualdo added. “This is not about sports. When our law is broken, obviously we need to take action.”
The Minas Gerais police lieutenant colonel Cicero defended his men’s actions. “It was criminal conduct, out of place at a football match. They could be arrested,” he was quoted as saying by Globo.
Every Arsenal player and the entire Argentinean delegation was kept from leaving the stadium until authorities were able to identify those who attacked the officers. The Atlético Mineiro club director Eduardo Maluf told local media that Arsenal’s locker room was damaged by the Argentinean delegation. He said the club will eventually ask Arsenal to pay for Atlético’s losses.
“They came here to fight,” the Atlético Mineiro coach Cuca said. “I was tired of seeing their defensive midfielders kicking our players away from the ball.”
Ronaldinho scored two of the goals for Atlético Mineiro, who have won all of their five matches to lead Group 3 of the Latin American club competition. Arsenal are third in the group. Only two teams will advance to the next round. Atlético, emerging as favourites to win the trophy for the first time, did their fellow Brazilian side São Paulo a favour since they are vying with Arsenal for the group’s other berth in the round of 16.
São Paulo and Arsenal have four points apiece but the Brazilians can pull away if they beat the Bolivian side The Strongest at high altitude in La Paz on Thursday.
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