Soccer bullies suspended

Three under-14 soccer players from Whitehorse have been suspended for assaulting teammates at two Outside tournaments.

Three under-14 soccer players from Whitehorse have been suspended for assaulting teammates at two Outside tournaments.

The Yukon Soccer Association is not disclosing the length of the suspension. To do so may reveal the identity of the perpetrators, said association president Brian Gillen.

“We’re dealing with 13-year-old boys, and it’s a small town,” he said. “I’ve been advised it’s not appropriate to do that.”

Three members of the Firth Rangers squad had their limbs bound and were wrapped in cellophane, had obscene words written on their bodies, were sprayed with water and had toothpaste squeezed in their ears.

At least one victim was tied up in his underwear. Teammates photographed him with their cellphone cameras.

Some parents of the victims wanted the perpetrators suspended for a full year. That would prevent the perpetrators from travelling to tournaments next summer.

They fear that hasn’t happened.

“We’re disappointed,” said one father in an interview on Wednesday. “We want to send the right message to other youth that this is completely unacceptable and must be stopped.”

The perpetrators will be required to stay in a hotel room with an adult during future trips, said Gillen.

The hazings occurred during a soccer tournament in Langley, BC, during Labour Day weekend and at a national tournament in Charlottetown, PEI, in October.

The coach and chaperones had no knowledge of the assaults, which occurred after midnight, until a complaint was made to the soccer association one week after the nationals, said Gillen.

A CBC report that appeared to contradict the adults’ claims of having no knowledge of the hazing is “erroneous,” said Gillen.

The report described a woman who overheard a father speaking to two sons about the hazing in the Vancouver airport. The woman believed the players were returning from the PEI tournament.

“He said something about hoping that everything would blow over, but he was sure that when they got home, it would come out and the proverbial expletive would hit the fan,” she said.

In fact, this discussion would have happened more than a week after the tournament, and one day after the assaults had been reported to the soccer association, said Gillen.

Some of the perpetrators are elite Yukon athletes. Their punishment will not affect their ability to participate in other sports, said Gillen.

Nearly the entire team knew of the hazings, said Gillen.

“Almost all the players knew something went on and never stepped forward,” he said.

Gillen confirmed one player quit the team last year due to harassment. This was “taken into account” while deliberating a suitable punishment, he said.

Some perpetrators have apologized to their victims. Others have not, said Gillen. But they will be expected to apologize.

The soccer team is to meet this weekend with a trained facilitator and sports psychologist to discuss the hazings in a “justice circle,” said Gillen.

“We hope to get them back on track in terms of restoring their spirit and healing the relationship between players,” he said.

As well, the coach and adult volunteers are to attend workshops on preventing hazing and other forms of bullying.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.