Pandemonium erupted as up to 400 rival soccer fans clashed during El Super Clasico pregame festivities Wednesday night, drawing more than 120 police officers to the scene and sending at least six people to the hospital.
Violence flared up again when the game ended about 10 p.m. when angry fans rushed the field, throwing bottles and cans.
According to Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell, tension began building when fans from two rival Mexican soccer teams, Chivas Guadalajara and Club America, arrived at the stadium by bus about 6:45 p.m.
The mayhem ensued shortly thereafter.
Witnesses at the stadium on Russell Road near Broadbent Boulevard said the pregame fighting lasted about five minutes before police and emergency vehicles showed up to quell the situation.
Roughly 40 officers from Las Vegas police initially responded. The crowd began throwing rocks and bottles, and additional forces were summoned. Russell Road was closed at Boulder Highway as law enforcement worked to defuse the situation.
According to Cassell, an additional 80 officers from Las Vegas, Henderson, UNLV and park police responded.
It appeared officials had attempted to prevent this kind of incident from happening, as the opposing fans were being dropped off at different areas of the parking lot.
“It was just perfect timing,” said Sam Boyd Stadium director Mike Newcomb. “If this group comes in two or three minutes later, it doesn’t happen. It was a perfect storm kind of thing.”
Spurts of chaos marred the game, with fans setting off fireworks and tossing a flare onto the field.
The match ended with a Chivas 1-0 win, and fans again began to cause trouble, storming the field and resuming the fight that had started earlier.
No one was arrested and no officers were injured, Cassell added.
The two teams have a history of animosity toward each other.
The match was part of the El Super Clasico series, whose history dates to the 1950s and includes 211 meetings between the clubs.
Club America has won 75 times, and Chivas Guadalajara has won 73 times. The teams have drawn 63 times.
Club America won its 11th Mexican League championship last year, tying Chivas’ championship total.
“This rivalry is intense,” 22-year-old Chivas fan Fernando Gomez said. “It’s something you can’t describe. But fighting is too much.”
The rivalry is rooted in a battle of haves and have-nots.
Club America, owned by media group Televisa, plays its home games in Estadio Azteca, the largest stadium in Latin America. By many accounts, it is the most hated team in Mexico.
Chivas plays its home matches at Estadio Omnilife, a stadium set against the rolling hills of northwestern Guadalajara.
The fans weren’t the only ones who wanted to fight on Wednesday night. Four players from the two teams were ejected during the match.
“I think we had adequate security,” event promoter Tim Luce said. “The police were prepared and stepped in quickly when the trouble began, and I commend them for their professional actions.”
Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney contributed to this report. Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at email@example.com or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44. Contact reporter Eric Uribe at euribe@ reviewjournal.com.
The teams put on an entertaining show for the announced crowd of 14,600 with Chivas’ Giovani Casillas scoring in the 88th minute to break up a scoreless game and give the Goats a 1-0 win.