Semifinal match called off after ugly melee leaves lumps of hair on court

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazilian women handball players threw punches and pulled each others' hair in a brawl that forced a national championship semifinal to be abandoned.

Television pictures showed lumps of hair on the court after the match between Metodista and Guarulhos, played Thursday night in Sao Bernardo on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

Trouble broke out for the first time with five minutes left when two players began arguing after a foul. Others joined in and a fight broke out but play eventually resumed with six players sent to the sin bin.

A more serious brawl erupted in the last minute when a Guarulhos player pulled an opponent's hair, pushed her in the back and then slapped her in the face.

The other player replied with a punch in the face, initiating another brawl which involved players, substitutes and officials, who traded kicks and punches.

The referees abandoned the match due to lack of security.

Manoel Luiz de Oliveira, president of the Brazilian Handball Confederation, said video evidence would be used to punish players and suspensions could include the national team.