TORONTO (Reuters) - World football body FIFA said on Friday it was launching an investigation into a clash between Chile’s Under-20 soccer team and Canadian police, while Chile’s president called the police action “unjustified aggression.”
The brawl took place Thursday night, shortly after Chile suffered a bitter 3-0 defeat to Argentina in a semi-final game at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Toronto, in which two Chilean players were ejected.
“This incident is definitely regrettable and I can only apologize in the name of FIFA,” organization president, Sepp Blatter told reporters at a press conference in Toronto on Friday.
“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.
Toronto police briefly detained all 21 Chilean players after an altercation with the athletes as they headed toward their bus amid a throng of fans.
Witnesses reported police used electric-shock guns and pepper spray against the athletes, prompting Santiago to file a formal complaint through diplomatic channels.
“The incident is especially serious because, in our opinion, the Chilean delegation suffered unjustified aggression,” President Michelle Bachelet said.
The incident came just two days after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met in Santiago with Bachelet to bolster political and economic ties.
“These international matches are hotly contested and often become very emotional,” Harper told CTV News on Friday during a visit to Haiti.
“There are provisions in Canada (under) which the authorities review these kinds of things and I don’t intend to comment any further.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair defended his officers, who he said stepped in when a Chilean team member began to argue with a rival fan. He said the Chileans then turned their aggression toward police.
Tensions were running high at the end of the game when several Chilean players angrily confronted the referee over his officiating. Police escorted the officials off the field.
Additional reporting by Rodrigo Martinez in Santiago