Bolivian president knees soccer rival in groin

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LA PAZ (Reuters) -- Soccer-loving Bolivian leader Evo Morales ditched all presidential niceties during a friendly weekend match, kneeing a rival player in the groin after he was tackled so heavily it left cuts and bruises on his leg.

The game in La Paz got rough after Morales clashed with Daniel Gustavo Cartagena, who works for the mayor's office in the high-altitude capital, just five minutes after kickoff.

The referee sent off four players, including Cartagena, and gave out four yellow cards, La Razon newspaper reported.

Television images captured Cartagena rolling in agony on the pitch after Morales, 50, retaliated with a knee to the groin. After the game ended in a 4-4 draw, several policemen tried to arrest Cartagena over his foul against Morales but then changed their minds, local media said.

"It was never my intention to hurt the president," Cartagena told La Razon after the match that pitted Morales and a group of presidential aides against staff from the La Paz mayor's office.

Morales, whose government has funded the construction of dozens of soccer pitches throughout the impoverished Andean country, continued playing after the clash and scored a goal.

But he limped off the pitch and a doctor's report said the leftist leader had bruises and cuts on his right calf.