Soccer game

Brawl at Valley football game leaves man seriously injured

AVONDALE, AZ — A brawl between amateur soccer players following a game at Avondale has apparently led to a few being banned from the league and another player in the hospital with serious injuries.

The fight happened last week in a tense Friday night game between the Furors and Manchester City, two teams in the Arizona Champion’s League, an amateur soccer league.

Several Arizona Champions League teams were playing on multiple courts that night.

Witnesses told ABC15 it was a tense game. During the second quarter, a Manchester City player allegedly fouled 26-year-old Jose Cruz by tripping him. The referee called a foul on the other player, causing the two men – Cruz and another player – to argue during the match.

The game ended, but the emotions remained after the game.

Isaias, a teammate of Cruz, said he was about to leave the field when he noticed Cruz on the ground and at least two men kicking him.

“There was just jostling as I ran up there. I saw they were trying to pull them apart, but before I knew it a fight was going on,” he said .

Arizona Champions League boss Rafael Chilaca has agreed to an on-camera interview with ABC15. He saw the fight and immediately called the police.

However, by the time the police arrived most of the players had left the football pitch, he said. Cruz was on the ground.

“He said he couldn’t feel his legs. He couldn’t feel anything from his waist down. He couldn’t move his feet or his toes,” said Rios, his teammate.

Cruz had to undergo immediate surgery. His family learned that Cruz had suffered five spinal fractures during the fight and would never be able to walk again. Initially, doctors apparently thought Cruz might be paralyzed.

It was unbearable news for those who know and love Cruz.

“It’s just unbelievable. He’s such a young man. He loves football. After a game, losing something so precious, being told that you may never play again, that you can’t -to even be running anymore, it’s so surreal to me,” Ríos said.

Chilaca said the Arizona Champions League was competitive. It has been around for 15 years and has 65 amateur teams under its umbrella.

“It’s a very difficult situation, not just for Jose but for me as a parent, as a league manager, it’s also difficult,” he said.

As for what consequences, if any, players involved in the fight will face, Chilaca was blunt.

“They will never play in this league again. Absolutely not. Not at all. I am against violence. These kids violated one of the most important rules, which is to have fun and be recreational. We have a zero-tolerance policy in terms of combat,” he said.

As for Cruz’s recovery, ABC15 learned that he was improving every day and beginning to regain feeling in his legs.

His road ahead, however, is expected to be a long and difficult recovery, and involve months of rehabilitation. Because he is 26, Cruz is no longer covered by his parents’ insurance, and his family expects it to cost him dearly to get the therapy he will need to recover.

Family members created a GoFundMe account to raise money to help with Cruz’s medical bills. Make a donation, Click here.

Friends also organize a charity football tournament to raise funds. This event is scheduled for December 12 at Woodglen Park. The cost is $100 per team to participate. Those interested can call 480-227-7902 or email [email protected]

No charges have been filed against anyone at this point, however, ABC15 has learned that Cruz’s family is exploring their legal options.

Football league director Chilaca said he hopes the incident will serve as a reminder to all athletes, amateur or professional.

“Believe me, the trophy, the medal, the prize money, it’s not worth it. Definitely not worth it, especially with the situation Jose is facing,” he said.