"It's not safe": Surrey soccer club calls for stronger policy to support racialized players

Jan 31 2023, 8:08 pm

There’s a growing call to address racism in sports after a team of 15 and 16-year-old soccer players from Surrey left a game in tears.

The club’s president, coach, and parents tell Daily Hive it was because the opposing team made racist comments toward some of the players, and those comments came from players and adults on the sidelines.

The game was being played between the Greater Vancouver United Sports Club (GVUSC), based in Surrey, and the Coquitlam Metro-Ford Soccer Club (CMFSC) on October 18, 2022.

GVUSC President Nischal Ram was there that day and says offensive language was used on the field against his players, and that some of the teens had been called the N-word and terrorists.

Ram alleges the players were also threatened and told to “go back to Surrey” during the game. He says the players who were targeted are predominantly South Asian and include three Muslim boys.

Ram added this is not the first time the team has faced discrimination but that, with the harsh treatment players experienced at the October game, coaches could not “let it go.”

“We had to step up and stand up for our team and the boys and the parents,” he said.

Sadiq Abubakar, the team’s coach, says by bringing the incident forward he wants not only an apology for his players but an education for the opposing club — as well as all soccer clubs in Metro Vancouver.

“Whatever happened has happened already. We can’t change it,” Abubakar said.

The opposing team responds

CMFSC provided a response to Daily Hive, which was also posted to its website, saying the club does not stand for racism or abuse.

It added this value has been reiterated to players, parents, and team officials.

In regards to the game, CMFSC said it took action as soon as it learned of the claims, which was a day after.

CMFSC added that GVUSC did not identify players, team officials, or spectators in its allegations.

“We met with CMFSC team officials and players, match officials, spectators, and parents, explaining the gravity of the accusations, collecting statements and reviewing game video/audio,” the club statement reads. “The video (with audio), filmed in the stands, does not support the claims of spectator misconduct. The referee and assistant referees reports and interviews provided no independent validation of player misconduct.”

Ram forwarded a video he said was used to review the game to Daily Hive. In the hour-and-a-half-long video, audio only captured spectators’ voices and alleged comments were not audible.

Especially with serious allegations, CMFSC said it would need proof “given our understanding of due process.”

CMFSC told GVUSC on October 21 that it did not find sufficient evidence to back the claims made.

However, the group added it “suggested the independent services of Communities Embracing Restorative Action (CERA) to support both parties work through the situation.”

“ITP Sport, on behalf of BC Soccer’s independent judicial body, communicated on Nov 16th that CMFSC’s internal review was extensive, taken seriously and offered a mediated solution through CERA,” CMFSC added.

BC Soccer review

Ram said he reported the incident to BC Soccer in hopes the organization might respond but was told nothing could be done.

“And that really broke our team’s heart,” Ram said.

Daily Hive reached out to BC Soccer but it responded by saying it could not comment on the outcome of the review.

“BC Soccer is required to appoint independent judicial bodies and processes to handle complaints and decision-making. BC Soccer implements this independence through the engagement with ITP Sport, Canada’s first full-service and programming Safe Sport agency. This independence means all BC Soccer Board and Staff Members have no involvement or influence on judicial decision-making,” the organization said in a statement.

BC Soccer also points out that in its existing policy, racist comments can be reported for misconduct.

“Nothing is being taken seriously”

Abubakar said he initially shared the allegations on Twitter because he heard stories of similar experiences around the province in other sports.

Given other teams in BC have made similar claims of discrimination, he said “nothing is being taken seriously… But if it’s not taken seriously, you just gotta keep continuing and continuing and continuing.”

Without necessary steps to support racialized players, Ram said it will only discourage kids from participating in any sport.

“We all know things like this exist in some form or another, but a situation like this escalating to this level, this is not good for the for the kids, or it’s not safe for the even kids to be exposed to.”

The province vows there are supports in place

To address abuse, maltreatment and discrimination in amateur sports in BC, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport said it has committed $750,000 to Play Safe. This money provides education and support through viaSport.

There is also the B.C. Universal Code of Conduct for Sport, which all 70 provincial sports organizations have adopted, as well as training programs.

“In addition, the Province announced on January 23, 2023, the launch of the K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan to address racism and discrimination in schools in B.C. communities.

“The K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan is part of [the] government’s commitment to dismantle systemic racism and build a better, more inclusive province for everyone,” the ministry added. Currently, the program is being launched in BC schools only.

Other supports available include the federal Canadian Sport Helpline.

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