Chile hot 'n' bothered

BRETT CLARKSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

The ugly brawl that erupted between the Chilean Under-20 World Cup soccer team and Toronto cops grew into an international controversy yesterday, with the Chilean government demanding answers from Canada and president claiming police used "unjustified aggression" in restraining the hot-headed players.

The fight broke out after Chile's 3-0 loss to rivals Argentina at BMO Field Thursday night. One Chilean player, Isaias Peralta, was shot with a stungun by cops in the melee. Police handcuffed several players, used pepper spray and detained the entire Chilean team inside the stadium for two to three hours before releasing them.

No charges were laid. There were no serious injuries.

The Chilean media and government rallied in support of the country's players yesterday, with media there describing the Toronto Police response as "brutal" and players describing being beaten by officers.

"They hit me with an electrical current and I fainted," Peralta told Chilean media. "When I regained consciousness, I saw 10 police officers were hitting me and throwing acid in my face."

Here in Toronto, the Chilean consul general, Ricardo Plaza Duco, released a Spanish-language statement denouncing the "brutal aggression" of police. In Chile, Foreign Affairs Minister Alejandro Foxley pledged to lodge a formal complaint to his counterpart, Peter MacKay.

The Chilean president also weighed in.

"In our judgment, what happened was particularly serious because the Chilean delegation suffered unjustified aggression," Michelle Bachelet told reporters in Chile. "It seems to us that what happened to those boys shouldn't have happened, and the government is going to be extremely clear in this regard."

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of FIFA's Chilean delegation, was in the dressing room with the players after the game and witnessed the ensuing incident outside.

"I personally saw it and the police of Toronto did not act like our police would," he said, adding that his players were innocent. "We can not accept these actions. We have 18- and 19-year-old kids who are here to play. They did not need to be treated like this."

The game itself turned ugly in the first half. Nine yellow cards were issued -- seven to Chile and two to Argentina.

After the final whistle, Chilean players confronted the referees. Cops intervened to protect the refs, Chief Bill Blair said in a prepared statement. Then, as the players were leaving, an argument broke out near the team bus between a Chilean player and an Argentina fan.

Again, cops had to wade in to calm the players, Blair said. That's when the "aggressive" Chilean players turned on the police, he said.

A fight started and quickly escalated. A witness told Sun Media's Mike Zeisberger that about eight to 10 Chilean players came out of the bus and that's when fists started flying between the players, the police and security guards. Several Chilean players were seen being handcuffed.

In the statement, Blair said the cops responded in a "firm, but fair manner" to restrain the "aggressive" players.

The brawl's fallout even had Mayor David Miller choosing his words carefully. FIFA president Joseph Blatter told CBC Newsworld that Miller told him police were perhaps a little too "rough" in their response. Miller denied this.

"No, I didn't," he said, when asked if he characterized the police response that way.


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