LA PAZ, Bolivia – President Evo Morales kneed an opposing player in the groin during a soccer match against a team of political rivals after an apparent hard foul by the opponent, images of the altercation broadcast Monday show.
In video aired by local stations and posted to YouTube, the player is seen collapsing to the ground after Morales walks up to him and knees him during Sunday’s game against a team led by La Paz Mayor Luis Revilla, a former Morales ally who turned against the president earlier this year
Witnesses said Sunday’s bitterly fought game, whose final score was 4-4, ended with two players from each side being ejected.
Morales was not among those kicked out, but the player who fouled him was.
Members of Morales security contingent tried to arrest the player, Daniel Gustavo Cartagena, immediately after the match but Revilla interceded.
Word spread Monday about the on-field altercation after Morales mentioned it.
He said Cartagena came at him cleats-up when he had the ball, tearing the skin on his right leg. The president denied ordering Cartagena’s arrest.
In a medical bulletin, the presidential palace said Morales received a laceration on the inside of the right leg and that three to four days of rest had been recommended for the president.
Morales went to work Monday as usual.
The popular leftist president, an ethnic Aymara and former coca-growers’ union leader, was first elected in December 2005 and recently declared that he intends to run again in 2014.