The Irvine Police Department is investigating a brawl that broke out over the weekend between two soccer teams that led to spectators, parents and family members coming onto the field and joining the melee.
The fight took place at Great Park in Irvine on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 21, following a game between Club Garrafones from South Los Angeles and Irvine Zeta FC II — both of which are part of the professional development United Premier Soccer League.
The nearly four-minute video obtained by KTLA shows the two teams and others in a violent altercation that moved back and forth across the field, with several people taking blows to the face, as well as one person ganged up on and kicked while they were down.
Bryan Wallace, head coach of Irvine Zeta, believes his lower-ranked and younger team’s upset victory over the undefeated Club Garrafones is what sparked tempers and led to a dispute between two players that eventually turned into an out-and-out fight that cleared the stands.
“We won the game. They have not lost all season,” Wallace told KTLA’s Mary Beth McDade. “I think it ignited a little bit of emotions, a lot of emotions. I shouldn’t say a little bit. Some words were shared between our players and their players that probably shouldn’t have been said and while one of my players was having a discussion with one of their players, another player came and punched him in the face.”
The head coach said that one of his 17-year-old players suffered a broken nose, that another player’s father took a kick to the head, one teammate chipped a tooth and others had busted lips.
At some point during the brawl, police responded to the soccer field. They assisted with those who were injured and began an investigation, according to Irvine PD.
United Premier Soccer League, which includes 400 clubs, launched an investigation into the fight and by late Monday had kicked Club Garrafones out of the league, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The expulsion includes a lifetime ban for the club and its coaching staff, with all their remaining games declared a forfeit, the league said in a statement.
Coach and owner of Club Garrafones Roger Navarro told The Times that he knows video of the brawl makes his team look bad and he disputes Wallace’s description of the fight. He said his team, comprised primarily of Latinos from low-income backgrounds, were defending themselves after a Garrafones player fouled a Zeta FC II player, who then attempted to retaliate.
“We might be from the low-budget teams, but we’re not criminals and we’re looking criminal,” he told KTLA.
He said his team faced harassments and racial slurs throughout the game.
“The only reason we reacted like that is because we got spit in the face, we got called ‘beaners.’ I don’t care if you live in Irvine, if you think you’re better than me, you’re not,” he added.
Wallace, in response, said he has one of the most diverse teams in the league made up of players from a mixture of backgrounds, including Korean, Indian, Black, Mexican and Croatian.
“There’s no racism at all within our organization and this notion that this [an] Orange County group that’s privileged and cannot relate to other ethnicities and, therefore, made racial comments to their players, is ludicrous,” he told KTLA.
In a statement released by Irvine Zeta FC II, team officials said they were “deeply disturbed by the unfortunate incident” and that their team, players and fans were “subjected to an attack by a group of adults.”
“We also want to express our support for the decision made by the league (UPSL) to ban the aggressors involved in this incident permanently,” the statement reads.
As for Navarro, he told The Times that the fight and the expulsion from the league “were setbacks for him and his team,” who are unlike other, wealthier soccer clubs where parents are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars so the team can travel and play away games.
Authorities said that the brawl is still under investigation and that anyone with information about the incident, videos or photos is urged to contact the Irvine Police Department at 949-724-7104.