Volume 18 • Issue 27 | November 18 - 24, 2005

Soccer league suspends player who was punched

By Jefferson Siegel

Indignation continues to rise among some parents and players of the Downtown Soccer League after the league suspended a player who was punched in the nose as well as the player who hit him. Both of the boys’ fathers were also suspended.

(For privacy reasons, Downtown Express is withholding the names of the players involved in the incidents.)

The parent of the child who was hit has decided to withdraw his child from the league. “As a parent I have no idea how to tell [my child] that he is suspended from a game when he did nothing wrong,” said the parent, who spoke on the condition his name not be used. The father has not received any explanation for his child’s suspension.

“The D.S.L. handled the situation very poorly and in an unprofessional manner,” he added. “They put their own interests ahead of the children.”

Some Rangers parents had planned to protest the player’s suspension last Saturday, either by boycotting the game or walking off the field in a demonstration of sympathy. While some parents did not attend the game, the Rangers fielded a full team and played their scheduled match.

Rangers parent David Stanke was one of many who voiced outrage at the Ranger player’s suspension. “Unfortunately, the league is sending the message that it considers it permissible to verbally and physically threaten parents on other teams, but if your child is mugged in the handshake line, please don’t get emotional,” Stanke said.

“Fortunately, I love having children in this league because the parents and children are overwhelmingly good sports focused on learning to play soccer well and to compete with honor and respect for opponents,” he added.

Don Schuck, league president who attended the most recent Celtic game said,”I have no comment on how any of the players or their parents were dealt with. We just want to get back to the game.” The board has not yet publicly commented on the rationale for their ruling. At last Saturday’s game, three men who said they were board members declined to comment on the situation.

Celtics coach Mike Barbieri, brusquely declining any comment on the incidents, warned a reporter to “stay away from me” at Saturday’s game.

Jennifer Caruso is a Celtics parent and was at the game where the punch took place. “I think it was a very unfortunate incident. It’s supposed to be all about the children,” Caruso said. “We saw the child do that [hit the Rangers player] and our coach was handling it, as well as the other coach who came over. They did see what had occurred and they did get the child on the Celtic team.”

Caruso described what happened after the punching incident. “The [Rangers] father came out of nowhere and went after the child. As a parent I would have reacted the very same way had I been that boy’s parent that he went after. If I was the parent of the child who got hit I very well would have been very upset also but I would have went over to the parent.”

The Rangers parent whose child was punched, when asked about this version of events, categorically denied it, saying that he “approached their coaches asking them to find the kid who hit [the Rangers player] so [the Celtic] could make an apology.”

Caruso added that, “There were fouls called against that team. There was bad behavior on both sides. It’s a kid’s game, it’s a soccer game and things happen and you can’t get like that over every little thing. It was very unfortunate,” she concluded.

However, a mother whose child was punched in the stomach last year said that there is a problem on the Celtics. “The same thing basically happened to our son last year when they played that team,” the parent said, requesting anonymity. “After the game in the line-up, [the Celtics player] just punched him.” After the league and parents traded e-mails, “Nothing happened. They didn’t suspend either child,” the parent added.

The two most recent incidents occurred during a game between the Minor 9 Division Celtics and Rangers on November 5. In the first incident, two Rangers parents rebuked several Celtics parents and coaches for standing on the field. A Celtics coach vociferously warned away the protesting parents.

After the game, during the “high-five” line-up, a Celtics player punched a Rangers player in the nose, drawing blood.

At last Saturday’s game, while some onlookers tried to discount the incidents as being blown out of proportion, many others continued to express shock, anger and dismay at what they perceived as a “punish the victim” mentality on the part of the D.S.L.

This weekend’s games are the last games of the league’s two-month-long season.


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