'Racist and discriminatory' behaviour prompts Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association to better policies
Published Sunday, August 11, 2019 6:06PM CST Last Updated Sunday, August 11, 2019 6:26PM CST
The Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association says it’s working to build better policies after an incident ‘involving racist and discriminatory’ behaviour in June.
Dorota Blumczynska, executive director of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) said it happened during a game at Minto Field.
Blumczynska said some players were so upset, she met them shortly after the incident took place. She said the racist remarks and discriminatory slurs were hurled towards one of the organizations’ teams with the association.
She said the comments went from egging people on, to personally attacking players to the point they felt unsafe and were in tears.
“Feeling so tremendously disenfranchised and questioning whether they belonged in that space,” said an emotional Blumczynska. “It was bad.”
Mathew Joseph was a referee liaison during the game.
“All I hear is the referee saying, ‘Who said it, who said it’, and from there he pulled out a red card and handed it to a player on the other team," said Joseph.
Joseph said the trouble didn’t stop there and the environment was so hostile, the IRCOM team was required to walk around the field to avoid the other team.
‘Can and should do more’: Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association
The WYSA sent a statement from President Daryl Lindsay to its members which the association shared with CTV News.
“At this time, all players, coaches, club officials, referees, parents, and team supporters should be reminded that there is a constant expectation of behaviour which maintains the dignity and self-esteem of all parties,” said Lindsay, in the statement.
“We can and should do more to provide a positive environment for all parties involved in WYSA. We will be working with our member clubs, community centres, and other partners to build better policies, create awareness around diversity and tolerance, and setting clear conduct expectations for all parties involved in WYSA.”
The statement goes on to say that all parties have a responsibility to refrain from behaviour involving any unwanted physical or verbal behaviour that offends or humiliates any other individual or group.
“Soccer is the world's game. We're privileged in Winnipeg to welcome so many players who have come here from other countries. They make our league and our city stronger,” Lindsay said.
Third incident in past year: IRCOM
Blumczynska said the racist incident in June is the third in which the IRCOM formally filed a complaint within the past year.
In the latest, she said the child was suspended for the rest of the season, but that only adds up to a month of games.
She wants systemic changes that go beyond dealing with racism on a case-by-case basis.
IRCOM said it has about half a dozen teams in the association with around 100 young players from 20 nations.
"Now there have to be anti-racist frame-works. Now there have to be zero tolerance policies. Now you have to be able to hold not just players, but coaches and clubs accountable," said Blumczynska.
WYSA members encouraged to report racism
In an email to CTV News, Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association executive director Carlo Bruneau said the organization felt it was important to step up and speak to the broader soccer community that this type of behaviour won’t be tolerated.
“We’ve encouraged our members to report any of these instances of racism, discrimination, and harassment as they occur. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and anyone found to exhibit racist, discriminatory or harassing behaviour will be sanctioned,” said Bruneau.
He said while they currently have policies that cover a code of conduct and discipline, it was appropriate at this time to review them with vested partners to ensure the association is setting clear expectations for all participants.