Debbie Christiansen is upset after her son's soccer team was barred from tournaments because they have too many nonIndo-Canadian players.
The Surrey mom said her son and his U13 teammates from the BC Tigers Sports Club have been sidelined from competing in the United Summer Soccer Association because of a controversial rule from the Indo-Canadian Soccer Association.
Rule 32 states that a maximum of four imports - players who aren't Indo-Canadian - are allowed in all boys U13 and U14 divisions. Christiansen's team has seven imports, but they went through the registration process in April and competed in numerous games without any problems, until recently.
"We had been playing with our same team throughout all the tournaments and nobody ever said anything," Christiansen said.
It wasn't until her son's team started winning weekend tournaments that the concerns over the number of imports came to light.
"We had the semifinal game and we won that," she said. "The coach from the opposing team lodged a complaint against us that we had too many import players on our team and they felt that they should be in the final because we broke the rule. Our feeling was this coach that lost to us in the semifinal was sour grapes."
She said her son's team went on to the final, but to avoid a $500 fine, they agreed to give the win to the opposing team, regardless of the outcome.
"Our coach said, 'Well, we just want to play soccer. You can have the win. We just want to play the game,'" she said.
However, during the match while the score was tied, Christiansen's son's team started dominating. She said that's when the other team started complaining her players were kicking too much until the referee called the game.
"Our feelings were that they thought they might lose," she said.
Christiansen said she asked the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal if it was legal for a league to discriminate against players and found that there are exceptions.
Section 41 of the provincial Human Rights Code states that non-profit social organizations operating primarily to promote the interests of an identifiable group or class "must not be considered to be contravening this Code because it is granting a preference to members of the identifiable group or class of persons." The USSA is a registered non-profit and fees are put toward running the league.
Mantej Dhillon, executive director of the USSA, acknowledged that Rule 32 can limit some teams, but said the committee responsible for the U13 division is concerned that allowing more import players may overload the association.
"They think if we open the tournament for all the communities, there will be too many teams and they cannot handle it," he said.
Dhillon said some teams registered within the import limit, but later added players. Next year, he said team rosters will be finalized at the registration process to prevent extra imports.
Christiansen's team is allowed to play exhibition games, but they risk getting fined if they compete in any tournaments, she said.
"They said you can take some of your import players and join other Tigers teams, but they don't want to do that," she said, noting that the boys are all good friends. "Who do you choose to go to other teams?"
Dhillon knows these boys are eager to play soccer with their friends rather than against them.
"I don't know how we tell those people, 'You can't play in the summer.' Sometimes we hurt the feelings of those kids and parents."
Christiansen hopes the USSA will revise the rule so that future soccer players, no matter what ethnic background, can get on the field.
The committee will take a vote next season on whether or not to increase the number of import players in the division.
Dhillon is optimistic more imports will be allowed and hopes the number will increase each season.
"I'm very positive we will bring the good news next year for everybody," he said.
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