Lake Tahoe Soccer League needs unity, not thuggery
In soccer, I’ve always thought a penalty kick shootout is the worst way to win a championship. But after this week’s developments in the Lake Tahoe Soccer League playoffs, I realized that winning without ever stepping on the field is a much worse situation.
Tahoe Mutiny – the team I play for – won its semifinal match on Tuesday, then was put in a unique situation on Thursday of accepting a trophy it didn’t earn. That’s because San Antonio, which was on its way to beating Santa Fe in the other semifinal on Tuesday, was kicked out of the league for a bench-clearing brawl that occurred at the end of that game.
Santa Fe was also kicked out of the league and had one player receive a five-year suspension for his involvement in the melee, which happened with minutes left in Tuesday’s match. I’d suit up on Saturday and play San Antonio in unofficial game, simply because championships should be decided on the field, not with a ruling from the league president. However, rules must be enforced.
League president Martin Jimenez upheld his league’s rule that if a bench-clearing brawl occurs, both teams are kicked out of the league. Without rules and without real consequences for breaking them, society can’t function – let alone a men’s soccer league.
Breaking rules without the threat of punishment is a precedent no governing body wants to happen on their watch. So Jimenez did what was necessary, which was award my team the title and allow two other teams (Deportivo Jacquez and Ameca) to play for second place on Thursday at the Community Playfields.
It was a sad ending to an intriguing season. In past years, at least one team could be penciled in the championship game before the season even began. That wasn’t the case this year.
There were four teams capable of getting results against one another. Many of South Tahoe High’s key members from last year’s 4A state title team played for Deportivo Jacquez, which joined San Antonio, Tahoe Mutiny and Santa Fe among the top four teams in the league.
In addition to a more balanced level of competition, community support continued. I’ve long argued that soccer is the most popular team sport on the South Shore, and nothing happened this season to change that.
It wasn’t uncommon to have several hundred people watch a regular season game. Soccer memorabilia stands and food stands often dotted the field’s periphery, as did families stretching out their limbs on large blankets.
The atmosphere found in the Hispanic-dominated league is a refreshing alternative to other sporting events I’ve covered on South Shore. But seeing stories in the newspaper about bench-clearing brawls and punches casts a black cloud over what is otherwise a positive thing.
Emotions run deep in these games, but channeling that passion toward a victory remains the better option because thuggery has no place in “the beautiful game.” While there was nothing beautiful about what happened on Tuesday, hopefully something better will emerge when the fall season starts next month – unity.
Jeremy Evans is a sports writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He can be reached at (530) 542-8008 or by E-mail at email@example.com.
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