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Uruguay players, Colombia fans clash in stands after Copa America semifinal


A number of Uruguayan players, including Darwin Nunez, clashed with Colombian fans after the semifinal of Copa America on Wednesday night.

Following the game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina altercations broke out between supporters in the stands with players entering the area where their families — including children — were situated in the stadium.

Liverpool forward Nunez was among those caught up in the incident with Ronald Araujo of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid defender Jose Maria Gimenez also pictured nearby.

Video footage appeared to show Colombian fans clash with Uruguay supporters and players with objects, including drinks cans, thrown.

Security personnel then stepped in to intervene before the players returned to the field alongside some family members who followed.

Players including Nunez were visibly shaken by the incident. He was later pictured being consoled by Liverpool team-mate Luis Diaz and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez on the pitch.

Gimenez, who captained Uruguay in the game, later told the television broadcast that players feared for their families’ safety.

“Colombian fans in a certain section descended on all our families,” he said. “They they won’t let us speak on the microphone. This is a disaster, our families were in danger. We had to rush into the stands to remove our loved ones with tiny newborn babies.”

An eyewitness spoken to by The Athletic reported isolated incidents of disorder between rival supporters during the game that were largely contained. Police officials were later shown in footage circulated of the incident involving the players.

“It’s a total disaster. There wasn’t a single police officer,” Gimenez claimed. “They showed up half an hour later. A disaster. And we were there, standing up for ourselves, for our loved ones.”


Darwin Nunez was consoled by Luis Suarez after the incident (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Brazil and Argentina’s match in November was marred by similar crowd trouble with players again unhappy with the policing of areas where family members were seated.

“Hopefully organizers take a little more precautions with our families, with the people and those around the stadiums. Because this happens every game,” Gimenez continued.

“Our families are suffering because of some people who have a few drinks and don’t know how to drink, who act like children. Hopefully, they’ll take more precautions for the next game so this doesn’t happen again, because this is a disaster.”

Uruguay lost the game 1-0 and will next play in the tournament’s third-place playoff match, in the same stadium, against Canada on Saturday. Colombia will face Argentina in the final in Miami on Sunday.

Suarez, who came on in the second half of the game, said: “Some of the players had wives, small children, their parents, older relatives. They went to see how they were doing. Then those things started to happen, the images that you’ve seen.

“They were trying to protect their families. From what I saw, there were a lot of relatives and children affected. You’re left powerless in that situation.”

Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet added: “It was an ugly moment. It’s not nice to see these problems, especially when your family is only two metres away. We are sad to go out of the tournament and now we have to deal with this situation.

“From what I saw, they started throwing things. You try to stay away from that, but when you see that it’s your family, small children, it’s difficult.”

“It was obvious that it could have been avoided,” Rochet continued. “I think that the area where the players’ families are should have been protected by some other kind of security, especially knowing that Uruguayan fans were outnumbered by Colombians. When you see your family there… all the players tried to go up and get them out.”

CONMEBOL, the tournament organizers, condemned “any act of violence that affects football”.

A statement read: “Our work is based on the conviction that soccer connects and unites us through its positive values. There is no place for intolerance and violence on and off the field.

“We invite everyone in the remaining days to pour all their passion into cheering on their national teams and having an unforgettable party.”

The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) will analyze the footage of the incident before considering any further action.

“The players reacted instinctively to what is natural, which is to defend and protect the children that were in that part of the stands, the women who were being assaulted, the wives, fathers, children and brothers who were there,” AUF president Ignacio Alonso told reporters.

“It’s an instinctive response of a father. It was a natural reaction that took place with much logic considering what was occurring around them.”

Additional reporting: Felipe Cardenas, Melanie Anzidei

(Top photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

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