World of Sport

Christian football match degenerates into brawl

World of Sport

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There was little charity on display when Zion Athletic and Common Ground United took each other on in the West Midlands Christian League.

For the first time in the history of the league a match had to be abandoned due to violence on the pitch after a mass brawl broke out in the second half.

The ethos of the League states that players are expected to behave both on and off the pitch in a manner "morally, decently and ethically sound of action and speech, honouring the name of Jesus Christ."

However, trouble began to brew when a Common Ground player was sent-off for 'serious foul play' in the 47th minute before things really kicked off when the same team conceded a penalty while 5-1 down in the 60th minute.

Birmingham County FA discipline manager Mike Fellows explained in the Telegraph: "A Common Ground player was sent off for serious foul play in the 47th minute, but the game carried on without problems.

"But then, in the 60th minute, the score was 5-1 to Zion and a penalty was awarded to them. An incident happened between one player and another where one received a few punches. The trouble kicked off.

"The referee reported that Common Ground players started throwing punches at Zion Athletic players. It got to the situation that the two official assistant referees agreed that they would have to abandon the game.

"It ended with five Common Ground players facing violent conduct charges, one of them also on a serious misconduct charge for violence."

The referee's report said that Zion's players were mainly just trying to defend themselves although one of their players was also charged with violent conduct.

Common Ground founder Tony Sadla, a deacon at Living Stones of Christ Embassy church, in Perry Barr, Birmingham, tried to defend his team and said they were provoked.

"Some of the kids come to church and some of them don't, and those are no longer church-going Christians.

"It's devastating and shocking and we don't condone this sort of behaviour. But Common Ground got the raw end of the deal with five red cards whereas Zion Athletic seemed to be the ones who escaped.

"When a penalty was awarded to Zion, their player started smiling and laughing, and made a remark.

"The guy who was involved in hitting him made a remark back and smiled and laughed. From there it just kicked off, we tried to stop it and pull them apart.

"Some of our players have had a bad course in life. By going to church, you don't expect it to change overnight. Sometimes they go off the rails."

Zion manager Jonathon Allen apologised for the whole episode.

"We are just thankful no one was seriously hurt. As a manager I was pleased by my players' response to the aggressive and violent behaviour of the opposition, by not fuelling a situation that could have been far worse.

"Violence has no place on a football pitch and we hope that the league will do all that they can to prevent a recurrence of this incident and ensure the very good discipline we have to come to enjoy each Saturday continues."

The League will meet on Thursday to decide what the punishment will be but they have promised " prompt and severe" action.

"I would think the league ban for the players will be a minimum of a year," said league secretary Neil Kovacs.

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