ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico youth soccer league is investigating a teen soccer game where racial tensions erupted into a chaotic brawl in which a parent is accused of physically assaulting one of the female players.
The Duke City Soccer League confirmed Tuesday it’s looking into reports that a man choked and groped a 15-year-old player during a match Saturday at a suburban soccer complex.
Ana Garcia, the coach of Alameda 99, a team made up of mostly Hispanic teens, said the melee began after her players were taunted during a close game with Rio Galaxy, one of the Albuquerque area’s elite soccer clubs.
“All throughout the game, the parents were calling the players things like ‘dirty Mexicans,’ and other stuff I can’t even repeat,” Garcia said.
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Rio Galaxy coach Steve Kokulis said he didn’t hear any racial slurs directed at the Alameda team from parents but his players reported to him that their opponents used anti-white epithets.
With the game tied, a melee broke out after an Alameda player pushed a Rio Galaxy player and two Rio Galaxy players jumped the Alameda girl, Garcia said.
Video of the fight submitted to the league shows two Rio Galaxy players attacking the Alameda player and both teams jumping into a pile to fight or attempt to break up the fight before a parent is seen running onto the field.
It is illegal in New Mexico for parents to run onto the field during a youth sports event, said Luis Robles, a lawyer who heads Duke City Soccer League’s disciplinary department.
Aracely “Arcie” Chapa, a parent of two Alameda players, said she saw a large man wrapping his arms around the girl and that the girl’s father intervened.
Bianca Retana, 15, said she was watching her sister, Miranda, in the middle of the brawl with Rio players. As she tried to pull her sister from the fight, Bianca said a man came from behind her and got her in a choke hold.
“And then he pulled me closer to him. I screamed for him to stop and he wouldn’t let go,” Retana told The Associated Press. “Finally, he let go…and I saw my coach. I ran up to her and I hugged her.”
Chapa said she heard the man who assaulted Bianca Retana tell her father, “Oh yea, I touched your daughter all right.”
The Associated Press generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault but Retana and her family agreed to speak publicly.
Kokulis said he saw parents run onto the field but he didn’t see any parent choke or assault a player.
“Not from where I was standing,” Kokulis said. “Things got out of hand. It was unfortunate because it was a good game.”
The league suspended both teams for a game.
Santa Ana Pueblo Police were called to the scene since the melee occurred on tribal land but no arrests were made. Pueblo Police Chief Bonadelle Candelaria would not confirm if the tribe was investigating and referred all questions to the soccer league.
The tension spilled over into social media as video of the brawl spurred more comments.
Robles said the league would review the posts and all other evidence before making a judgment about any allegation of physical assault or child abuse independent of law enforcement.
Associated Press writers Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras