The postgame handshake lines quickly turned into an all-out brawl following the James Madison-Franklin D. Roosevelt Brooklyn A West boys soccer game.
The teams lined up for what is usually a display of sportsmanship after the host Cougars’ physical and emotional, 3-2 victory over the two-time defending division champion Knights at the Parade Grounds in Park Slope.
As the FDR players made their way down the line in front of the Madison bench, two pairs of players from opposing teams separated from the lines and exchanged punches. With no police or NYPD school safety officers present, numerous fans and spectators began spilling on the field, causing a wild scene.
“Grown men came over the gate and started punching us,” Madison coach Nick Punzone said. “They were not kids. Three guys were on one player and they were men. They weren’t kids. They were men and they were throwing haymakers. We had parents saying that they looked drunk. That cannot happen at a PSAL game. This is not a safe situation.”
Knights senior Yauhen Malko said he had to run away from three men who were chasing after him. His teammates and coaches were unable find him for at least 15 to 20 minutes after the incident occurred. Five Madison players later filed police reports because of minor physical injuries they suffered.
“I don’t teach my players to be dirty,” Punzone said. “We don’t go after anybody. There is control. You can’t have chaos like that.”
PSAL boys soccer commissioner Vito Rizzi did not return a phone message Wednesday night, but forfeits and suspensions would seem to be imminent.
PSAL rule 22.1. states: “In the event of an altercation, if teacher/coaches lose control of their benches, and both benches clear to participate in the altercation-that game will be declared a double forfeit and both teams will foreit a minimun of the next two scheduled league games.” The rule also reads: “The PSAL Director may impose further sanctions if there is evidence that such sanctions are warranted.”
At one point FDR coach Martin Gottesman and Knights senior Petro Turiy went tumbling to the ground together. Gottesman said that he was the one taken down in a headlock, while Turiy later told police, who were called to the scene by Madison for protection, that it was Gottesman who went after him.
“I grabbed all my guys and pulled them back, tried to pull as many of them back as I can,” Gottesman said. “For the most part my guys were pulled off.”
Punzone said he understood Gottesman’s passion and the importance of the game, but felt the FDR coach overhyped the crowd and his players. The win moved them into first place and evened their record with Madison at 5-1-0. Punzone pointed out that the Cougars earned three yellow cards and a red card by Rati Kutaladze in the final minute. According to referees, he was given the card for hitting a Madison player in the back of the head before a free kick in the final seconds.
“That right there tells you what team is under control and what team is not,” Punzone said.
Added Gottesman: “Sometimes I tell these guys don’t let the passion of the game get out of hand, but for the most part I thought my guys did a great job trying to maintain their cool.”
Gottesman felt his players were being chopped from behind during the game and mentioned a play after the first-half whistle where he said junior Miguel Mendez was punched in the lip by a Madison player. It caused him to bleed and have to change his jersey before returning to the field after halftime. He and Punzone both said the referees did not take control of the game early enough. One official said he warned the coaches that handshakes may not have been a good idea.
Witnesses also took some of the onus off the players and onto the spectators that rushed the field from all angles. One Madison parent, who requested anonymity, described it as a soccer argument that turned into a war.
“If it was just the two teams it would have ended right there,” the parent said. “It’s the outsiders that escalated it.”
The play on the field was hot right from the start and things got chatty as the game went on. The Cougars took the lead early when striker Juan Colorado scored on a pretty give and go with Jose Mendoza in the fifth minute. Madison got the equalizer when Mostafa Haridi headed in a Malko corner kick. FDR grabbed the lead for good when Colorado, who had to leave the field because he was wearing illegal shin guards, drew a foul at the top of the box. Valentyn Kharko bent in the direct kick right before the half and Colorado opened the second session with a penalty kick goal to make it 3-1.
The Cougars celebrated the win with hugs and chants after the game, but that means nothing now, depending on how the PSAL rules.
“Bottom line it shouldn’t have gotten to the point of what it did,” Gottesman said. “If everything was controlled from the beginning and everyone had full control from the beginning like they should have, this could have been avoided.”