SAO PAULO (AP) — Argentine club Arsenal paid a fine of nearly $20,000 to Brazilian authorities to ensure charges weren't brought against seven players accused of injuring several police officers and a journalist after a Copa Libertadores match.
The altercation began after several players approached the match officials following the final whistle to complain after Atletico Mineiro's 5-2 win. Some police officers immediately arrived and shoved the players, upsetting them.
Television images showed some of the players attacking the officers near the midfield sideline, throwing punches and kicks. Some also threw objects at the police and referees.
The players were detained and questioned for nearly five hours after the match at Independencia Stadium in Belo Horizonte on Wednesday before being allowed to leave Brazil at about 5 a.m. (0800 GMT) Thursday.
"There were apologies sent by the Argentine consulate, by part of Arsenal's club directors and by the team captain," police official Claudia Romualdo told the UOL website.
The seven players weren't immediately identified and are allowed to return to Brazil.
Arsenal said Atletico Mineiro gave support to the Argentine club and even loaned some of the money used to pay the fine. The Argentines complained about the local police, however.
"I had to ask for forgiveness from a police officer who was pointing a gun to my head," Arsenal president Julito Grondona said in a radio interview, according to UOL. "The police was not up to the task for an event like this."
According to Brazilian media, the South American football confederation, Conmebol, also criticized the local police, calling their actions "unforgivable" and "incomprehensible."
Officers used shields and batons to protect themselves and some pointed shotguns loaded with rubber bullets at the players, although authorities said no shots were fired. The confrontation continued as police said they tried to escort the Argentine players from the field.
"The officers were positioned to provide safety to the visiting players so they could go into the changing 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," she said. "This is not about sports. When our law is broken, obviously we need to take action."
TV images showed a metal chair being thrown at the officers from the Arsenal changing room, with one officer throwing a punch at one of the players. A radio journalist was hit in the head by a chair thrown by the players.
Police said none of the injuries were serious.
Atletico Mineiro director Eduardo Maluf told Brazilian media that Arsenal's changing room was damaged. He said the club will ask Arsenal to pay for Atletico's losses.
"They came here to fight," Atletico coach Cuca said. "I was tired of seeing their defensive midfielders kicking (our players) away from the ball."
Arsenal's players argued with Paraguay referee Enrique Caceres throughout the match, and there was another brawl involving them and Atletico players just after the first half ended.
Argentine media called the incident a "scandal," saying that it tarnished the "image of the country hosting the next World Cup," according to the Ole newspaper. The Cancha Llena had a headline reading "Brazilian Shame."
It was the second altercation involving Argentine and Brazilian club in less than five months.
Last year, players from Argentina's Tigre abandoned the final of the Copa Sudamericana in Sao Paulo after accusing fans and security guards of hitting them in the changing room at halftime.
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