Belfast Telegraph

The Friendliest Games? Seems no one told the Marbella Police

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

The World Police and Fire Games is all about "fraternity and camaraderie".

But seemingly not everyone is prepared to play ball.

An over-35s football match between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Marbella Police had to be abandoned on Monday after "inappropriate behaviour" from the Spanish side.

In a very unsportsmanlike display, a PSNI officer was shoved to the ground and match officials were subjected to verbal abuse from the visitors, forcing IFA officials to end the game with 15 minutes to go.

Last night a PSNI spokesman told the Belfast Telegraph its officer was "okay" and did not suffer serious injury.

Great efforts have been made to ensure the 2013 WPFG tournament in Belfast is remembered as the friendliest games ever, so Monday's ugly scenes and lack of discipline at Upper Malone has marred an otherwise trouble-free event.

WPFG volunteer James Irwin was at the football match and yesterday blogged about what he had witnessed.

He wrote how the Spanish team had taken an early hold of the game, leading 2-0 inside 10 minutes, before the PSNI fought back to level the game at 2-2 by half-time.

One of the officers from Marbella then launched "a David Beckham-style lob" to regain the lead for the Spaniards at 3-2.

James blog continues: "Inexplicably, though, the Spanish side, despite being in a winning position, then completely lost their discipline as their desire to win boiled over into a sequence of behaviour that ultimately cost them the game.

"First, one player, without apparent provocation, shoved a PSNI player off his feet to the ground: a straightforward red card decision for the referee.

"The Marbella players, however, took exception to this decision to the point where one earned his team another red in quick succession.

"Down to nine men, but still winning, the Spaniards remained unhappy about the match officials and continued to harangue both the referee and the assistant on the side near their bench.

"After he issued several unheeded warnings to the team to calm down and desist, the referee took the brave and, to my mind, correct decision to call the game to an end with 15 minutes remaining.

A WPFG spokesperson said: "During a soccer 11s match between a Marbellan team and the PSNI continued inappropriate behaviour by the Spanish team led the referee to call off the game with 15 minutes of play remaining.

"All sports played during the World Police and Fire Games are done so in accordance with the rules laid down by the governing bodies of each sport.

"The actions taken by the referee followed the standard procedures of the IFA which has been contracted to deliver soccer in the Games."

A spokesman for the IFA said: "The referee's report has been submitted to the organisers."

Marbella Police were back in action on Tuesday against California Fire and played Brazil Military Police yesterday.

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