Miami Soccer Players Accused of Instigating Brawl, But Team Says It's Being Racially Profiled

Yesterday the Orlando Sentinel wrote an explosive story about how a soccer team from Miami had allegedly instigated a vicious on-field brawl during a tournament at Disney World. "Parents who witnessed the Saturday afternoon altercation painted a particularly vivid picture of parents and players from a Miami team storming the field, punching an elderly man and repeatedly kicking a downed player in the head," the newspaper reported.

But representatives from that team, Pachuca FC Miami, say the account is one-sided and their Hispanic players are being racially profiled.

"It's very sad that the article was made to pretty much profile and label our kids as 'Miami thugs' when that's exactly what we are trying to avoid," says the team's volunteer director Monica Mularski.

According to the Sentinel, Pachuca players started the fight before their parents also started swinging:

"What made this insane was that the parents cleared the bench," said Matthew Feinberg, whose son Jordan, 16, was treated at Florida Hospital Celebration Health for a concussion and other injuries. "The parents on their team helped their children. They even hit some kids on our team.

"A grandparent was punched in the chest, and his pacemaker went off," Feinberg said. "He was on the ground."

Feinberg, of Avalon Park, called the fight "a riot," adding that a Miami player tried to punch him,as well.

But Mularski says that's an extremely one-sided account. She points out (as did the newspaper) that one of the newspaper's sources was a former Sentinel reporter.

"The reporter published a very biased article with key points that are obviously, if not to do a favor for a previous employee, to assist an acquaintance with a personal vendetta," Mularski says.

Mularski said that after speaking to the five Pachuca parents at the game, she felt the need to rebut the Sentinel's claims.

"The goalkeeper who supposedly had a concussion, he initiated the brawl," she said. "It was an Orlando [FC] father who first stepped foot onto the field. And the grandfather with the pacemaker actually assaulted three of our players, and they can identify him as well."

Mularski, who did not witness the fight, thinks race played a role in its coverage.

"It's very easy to blame it on us," she says. "The majority of our players are hispanic, our coach is Hispanic, most of them speak Spanish." (Despite it's affiliation with the professional Mexican team, most of Pachuca's players are Colombian-American.)

"We are not going to say that our kids aren't at fault," Mularski says. "All parents and kids on that field assaulting one another should be held accountable. We will hold our kids and parents responsible. We are already putting kids on probation. But it's not so one-sided as it appears in that article."

The Sentinel reported that one Pachuca player may face felony assault charges over the incident. The players for both Pachuca and Orlando were 15 or 16 years old.

Pachuca FC Miami is run by a non-profit called The Ninety Minutes Foundation. According to its website, "Pachuca FC is an academy dedicated to the development and empowerment of today's athletic youth, focusing on the betterment of each players educational and professional goals."

"We don't want our kids to be portrayed as thugs from Miami, because they are far from that," Mularski says. "We want to protect our kids. We don't want this article to get to them so they see more people dragging them down."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.