MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s top-division soccer league, Liga MX, suspended all matches scheduled for Sunday after a massive brawl among fans during Saturday’s match between the host Gallos Blancos in Querétaro and Atlas from Guadalajara, the reigning league champion.
“We regret and condemn these events, which run contrary to the spirit of our soccer,” the Mexican Football Federation said in a statement.
The Saturday match was suspended in the 62nd minute when multiple fights broke out in the stands of the La Corregidora Stadium. Security personnel opened the gates to the field so that fans, including women and children, could escape the stands.
Querétaro Gov. Mauricio Kuri gave a press conference on Sunday in which he said that 26 people required hospitalization after the violence, 24 of which were men. Three people have been discharged so far, and the governor has repeated that there are no deaths.
Of the remaining hospitalized, 10 are in fragile condition while three are in critical condition with severe injuries.
Graphic videos and photos circulated on social networks showing apparent fans motionless on the ground, in some cases stripped completely naked and covered with blood. Footage showed men on the ground being repeatedly kicked and pummeled until they were unconscious.
“They were savagely injured, which is a shame and a blot on soccer, for these type of things to happen, in a place that should be for families to go and have fun. This is totally unacceptable,” Kuri said.
After the melee broke out, players from visiting Atlas quickly fled to the locker rooms as did some from the Querétaro side. Other Querétaro players, including Uruguayan goalie Washington Aguerre, stayed near the bench trying to calm the fans.
After several minutes some of the fights moved to the field where they continued punching and kicking. Some people were armed with chairs and metal bars.
One fan could be seen pulling a knife to cut the nets of one goal. Others destroyed one side’s bench and some fought in the tunnel to the field.
“The darkest day for Mexican soccer,” was the front-page headline in the Mexican newspaper El Universal on Sunday.
Kuri said that security at the stadium was mostly a private responsibility, but that even state security forces were “insufficient and did not act with the promptness that was needed.” The governor has asked prosecutors to launch an investigation into the incident and determine the responsibilities of everyone involved, including directors, teams, public officials and aggressors.
Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco state, and Atlas has also had issues recently with violence among its fans. Last year, the “classic” with crosstown rival Chivas saw a brawl in the stands.
“Unfortunately, what is happening in Querétaro ... is happening in my country,” said Rafael Márquez, a former captain of the Mexican national team who started his career with Atlas and later became its coach.
Kuri condemned the violence and said the owners of the Querétaro club would have to answer for what happened.
“I have given instructions that the law be applied with all of its consequences,” he said.
Both teams issued statements condemning the violence.
Sanjana Karanth contributed to this report.