A soccer match turned violent as hundreds of fans outside the stadium started fighting in Lodi, California on Saturday night.
The match, between alumni of Mexican rival teams Leyendas De Las Chivas and Leyendas De La America, took place in Lodi’s Grape Bowl on Saturday.
Fans started fighting in the parking lot before the match began, with about 200 people joining the melee, some armed with bottles, baseball bats, and golf clubs.
One man was stabbed repeatedly and hospitalized, while at least three were hospitalized with head injuries, Sgt. Steve Maynard of the Lodi Police Department told the Sacramento Bee.
According to one witness, some people came to the match looking for a fight.
“One of the guys looked like he had a bulletproof vest on and he had like armor padding down his arms,” Anthony Silva told Fox News.
Police Watched the Fighting
Some fans are upset because officers from the Lodi Police Department sat in their cars for about 15 minutes and let the brawl continue.
Soccer fan Anthony Silva told Fox that the officers at the scene just sat and watched.
“They didn’t get out of their cars or nothing,” Silva said.
“And they had their sirens on, they would do that ‘eee’ every so often, but they did not get out of their vehicle until the partner person came,” said neighbor, Shannon Munoz.
Lodi police said that the few officers they had working security at the game were outnumbered and would have been completely overwhelmed, so they stayed in their cars until back-up arrived.
Lodi Police Officer Jerry Bahr told Fox, “Assistance was requested from California Highway Patrol and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, both of whom responded to assist us.”
It took about 15 minutes to break up the fight once sufficient officers had arrived, according to Sgt. Maynard.
Even after more officers arrived, no one was arrested.
“The fact that they did not make one single arrest, that’s not OK because that tells people that that’s OK to do in our town and it’s not,” Shannon Munoz opined.
Sgt. Maynard told the Sacramento Bee that police made no arrests because the attackers couldn’t be identified and police had no evidence of who initiated the violence.
Lodi Not Ready
Lodi, a city of 65,000 about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, had held soccer matches before but never one featuring popular Mexican teams.
The match was supposed to be a friendly meeting between retired players from two major Mexican rivals, Club America and Chivas de Guadalajara.
The two teams have been playing at cities in Mexico and the United States since March, giving Mexican soccer fans in the U.S. a chance to see their old heroes in person.
Billed the Legends (“Leyendas”) Tour, the matches had not incited any violence at previous venues.
However, one soccer promoter said that people who knew Mexican soccer could have anticipated this problem.
“In Mexico, this is it. This is the national rivalry. They play each other and they’ve been doing it for many, many, many years,” Jose Reynoso told Fox News.
Reynoso said that it is common knowledge that there is bad blood between fans of the two squads.
“You have people who are just going to show up, who aren’t even going to go to the game, they’re just going to tailgate, they’re gonna party,” Reynoso said. “And many of those people are there to cause problems.”
“Support squads are sometimes a little rowdy and that’s what ends up happening when you don’t have enough security.”
Soccer Fans Lose Out
“You know we have had soccer games here in the past. We’ve never had anything like this,” said Jeff Hood, Director of the Lodi Parks and Recreation Department.
“We had security requirements and told them some of the ins and outs of operating at the Grape Bowl,” Hood told Fox.
Hood says that the city suggested the promoter hire Lodi police officers to work security, but no city officers were on the scene when the brawl broke out.
Hood said that there were no incidents inside the stadium—all the violence was between people partying in the parking lot.
The upshot of all this is that the Legends Tour will not be welcome at Lodi again.
“Yeah, I don’t think the likelihood of this event returning is very high,” Hood said.