Friday, July 20, 2007


By Michael J.W. Stickings

Chile has a great deal to offer the world -- great wine, great literature, great natural beauty (from what I understand), not-so-great experiences with U.S.-sponsored dictatorship, etc. -- but I would not put under-20 soccer players on that list.

As some of you may know -- perhaps those of you who pay rigorous attention to what the rest of the world calls football -- Canada is currently playing host to FIFA's Under-20 World Cup. I'm not really paying that much attention to it, but I do know that the host nation stunk and that Sunday's final will feature the Czech Republic, which beat Austria 2-0 in one semifinal, and Argentina, which beat Chile 3-0 in the other (held here in Toronto).

But, oh, that second semifinal. Argentina was by far the better team, but the match was an ugly affair. Chile ended up with only nine players on the field -- two had been sent off with red cards (on top of seven yellows). And it didn't end there on the field. Here's the report from the Toronto Star:

At least nine members of Chile's under-20 national team were detained last night – some of them reportedly tasered and pepper sprayed – in an altercation with police after a heated game against Argentina at the National Soccer Stadium last night.

According to one officer at the scene, frustrated Chilean players had boarded the team bus after their 3-0 loss to Argentina in the Under-20 World Cup semifinal when they broke metal arm rests off the seats and used them to break bus windows.

That's when witnesses said police stepped in.

Did the police overdo it? Yes, perhaps. It's not clear that such force -- including tasers and pepper spray -- was necessary. (Still, Chile's coach said that his players "were upset with the ref and the red cards" -- an understatement, no doubt.)

But that's not to excuse the Chileans, who obviously behaved badly both on the field and off. Indeed, the police are saying, according to another report in the Star, that the Chileans players "confronted the referees after the game" and that the police themselves "intervened to protect the referees".

FIFA, Toronto police, and the Chilean delegation are investigating the incident. One suspects that they will all come to different conclusions.

I think I'll open a bottle of a nice Chilean red this evening. As for their under-20 soccer players -- well, I can do without them, thank you very much.

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  • It is unfortunate that the only information you are going by is the badly written articles from the Star, whose writers seem to have missed the game altogether, had all sorts of factual errors,and whose only source of info about the melee afterwards seems to be the TO police. The reporting on this incident has been purposely vague here in Canada, and has left the impression that the Chileans were a bunch of violent hooligans, sore about their loss to Argentina and looking for trouble. If you have the time and inclination, watch the game. Look at other news sources. You will find that the Chileans and fans in general were robbed of what could have been a good game by a referee that was at best incompetent, and at worst should have had an Argentinian jersey on. The brutal treatment meted out to the Chilean delegation (even their Federation's president was hit) was more than excessive, and is consistent with a pattern in the TO police service. Unfortunately, for people who only have a vague idea of what happened from the news media here, it becomes all too easy to blame the players for what went on, without really knowing or bothering to find out what really happened.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:23 PM  

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