Player punched rival 'in self-defence'

A woman who punched a rival football player in the head says she lashed out in self-defence and is ashamed of her actions.

Nikita Swarts, 25, was red-carded after a scrap between her and Monique Barker turned into an all-in melee during a Mainland Premier League women's match between Cashmere-Technical and Western at English Park on Saturday.

The match was abandoned after 65 minutes when Swarts' Western teammates walked off English Park in protest at a referee's decision to send her off.

Barker has complained to police about the incident.

"It [the complaint] alleges an assault by a player from the Western team which escalated into a larger altercation involving other players," a police spokesman said yesterday.

The complaint was being assessed by police and charges had not been laid, the spokesman said.

Swarts claimed yesterday that she was repeatedly pushed by Barker during the game but the referee did nothing about it.

Swarts said she eventually took exception and pushed back before the pair began "grabbing each other and pulling each other".

"I did punch her but it was more of an attempt to get her off me," Swarts told The Press yesterday.

"Every move that I made was in retaliation to a move previously made . . . against me. It was not like I walked up to her and punched her."

Players from both sides ran to the melee, including the Cashmere-Technical bench but it is understood most of the players were only trying to break up the scuffle. Western did not have any reserves.

"Once I was picked up and dragged away I walked away with my team and she [Barker] was standing there going insane - screaming," Swarts said.

"She had three players trying to hold her back and she was still trying to attack me."

Swarts said she had sent a message to the Cashmere-Technical team and apologised. "Of course I'm ashamed. Girls shouldn't act in this way.

"I will be defending myself in the proceedings with Mainland as the decision made by the referee was not entirely fair given that Monique was not given a red card or any consequence for her behaviour."

Swarts said she would consider making a police complaint of her own: "I would defend myself, as would my team and my coach and my eyewitnesses."

Cashmere Technical has sent a message to players asking them not talk to media about the incident. Barker could not be reached for comment.

The incident came as Mainland Football prepares to introduce a sideline behaviour campaign, following violent incidents involving football players or supporters.

Swarts received an automatic two-match suspension and a $100 fine from Mainland Football for violent conduct.

That punishment, and any for Barker, could still change if Mainland Football's judicial officer investigates and deems fit.

Chief executive Mike Coggan said violence on the field and abuse towards officials was affecting the image of the game.

"Enough is enough. Clubs have to take a strong stance. It's just really frustrating."

The Press