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Utah girls soccer player apologizes after violently kneeing foe in the face during match

Jonathan Wall
Prep Rally

If you've ever played or watched a soccer match before, you likely know physical play is part of the game. Slide tackles, shoving, even the occasional elbow are considered legal ways to take the ball away from your opponent. But what transpired during a recent match between Woods Cross (Utah) High and Salt Lake City (Utah) East High completely crossed the fair, physical play line.

Per reports from ABC-4 in Salt Lake City, the Deseret News and KSL.com, video from a recent match between the two schools surfaced belatedly showing East High senior Petiola Manu kneeing Woods Cross High's Makenzie Clark in the face during a dead ball period in the contest.

"I just see my baby out there," Makenzie's mother Susie Clark told ABC-4. "It makes me sick to my stomach. It was a dead ball. It was after the fact. It was after the play was over. It was a brutal, dirty shot."

According to ABC-4, Clark tore a ligament in her ankle and had to be carried off the field following the play, leaving her helpless when Manu decided to unleash a vicious knee to the face of the Woods Cross player that didn't even draw a yellow or red card.

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After seeing video of the incident for the first time on Sunday, East High's principal Paul Sagers sat down with the soccer coach and Manu to discuss the brutal incident and watch the clip. Manu has since accepted responsibility for the incident and apologized, but that has done little to quell the furor over the unprovoked attack.

Perhaps more troubling still is the fact that these incidents are becoming more and more commonplace on the field.

In March, a South Carolina teen brutally attacked another player during a match and earned an assault charge for the incident. While charges haven't been filed against Manu for the cheap shot on Clark, she likely will face consequences from the school and possibly the Utah High School Activities Association, which recently launched its own investigation.

"A knee to an unprotected head is unacceptable," Susie Clark told KSL.com, "that kind of unsportsmanship is unacceptable, and I don't want a player to get away with this to set a precedent for it to be able to happen again, that they can get away with something."

Plain and simple, this kind of behavior on the field has to stop. There's nothing wrong with a good, clean slide tackle or going in hard for a 50/50 ball, but when you resort to dirty tactics with the intent to harm your opponent, you should be held liable for your actions.

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