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Peru RPCV Bruce Greenlee reaches out after Soccer attack
Peru RPCV Bruce Greenlee reaches out after Soccer attack
Reaching out after soccer attack
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Today, exactly one week after a vicious attack on a soccer referee by a coach in Albany, events have fallen into a predictable pattern. There has been outrage, shock, embarrassment and, inevitably, the beginning of legal action.
The coach, Mauricio Alvarez, has now been charged on two counts of battery by the Alameda County district attorney's office. If convicted of both, he could face a year in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both.
That's a good thing. Alvarez should face charges after punching Bruce Greenlee last Saturday when the 59-year-old official questioned the age and credentials of one of Alvarez's players. Parents of the Cabritos, a Richmond United team for boys under 10 years old, thought they were going to the first game of a two-day soccer tournament.
Instead, they ended up in a media maelstrom.
"I feel so bad, I can't believe it,'' said Alex Rodriguez, president of the Richmond United Soccer Club, which sponsored Alvarez's team. Rodriguez was out of town when the attack occurred and has not spoken publicly about it until now. "I just hope we can apologize for all that happened. That is not what we want to show the kids.''
But in the hundreds of e-mails that I received after that incident -- many addressed to Greenlee and expressing sympathy -- there was a note of resignation. How many times, the writers asked, do we have to go through this? Aren't we making any progress at all?
The worst of it, several pointed out, is that the boys on the team, the Cabritos (Little Goats) are only 8 and 9 years old. Not only have they been swept into a controversy, they're left without a team or a coach.
This week, a coach stepped forward. He's experienced. He speaks Spanish. And he's a longtime supporter of soccer in Richmond.
His name is Bruce Greenlee.
"I've been thinking of volunteering to coach,'' Greenlee said. "(Although) I definitely need for Alvarez to be brought under the criminal justice system before I go near that team.''
There are tentative feelers from both sides. Greenlee says he would be interested, and when Rodriguez floated the idea to the Cabritos' parents, he says they told him, "That's not a bad idea.''
It's a great idea. It would go miles toward restoring trust and credibility to the program. Greenlee, considered a tough but fair official, certainly knows the game, and the Cabritos would love to get back to playing soccer.
"This shows a good heart from Bruce,'' says Rodriguez, who says he's known Greenlee about five years. "Everybody has to hear and see this.''
That's the irony. Greenlee may have ended up battered and bleeding after an attack from the coach of one of Rodriguez's teams, but there are no two bigger boosters of soccer on the hardscrabble streets of Richmond. Greenlee has held several offices in the Richmond Soccer Club, and Rodriguez, in addition to being president, coaches his son's team and referees, too.
"I don't like to be a referee,'' Rodriguez admits, "but I do it for my sons. Because my sons like to play soccer.''
The kicker is, for all the bad publicity Richmond soccer has gotten out of this, Alvarez doesn't even live there. He's from Berkeley. Today, Rodriguez is still kicking himself for handing over one of the club's 26 teams to him.
"A friend of mine brought him to me,'' Rodriguez says. "He had a family, a daughter. He was always dressed in sports clothes. A couple of times, he came to my house. I never saw anything like that. Believe me, if he had, I would tell him you can't coach anymore.''
Alvarez has gone underground. He hasn't answered the many messages Rodriguez has left on his phone, and when the club president drove to his house Wednesday night, no one answered the door. The Chronicle also has been unable to reach him.
A "notice to appear'' is being sent to Alvarez's house, and a court date will be set in the next month or so. He is, Rodriguez says, "out of the club.''
Although the parents "are kind of in shock,'' in Rodriguez's words, the good news is that it has jolted the club into action.
Rodriguez says plans have been laid for all coaches to attend what amounts to field etiquette classes next year, like those offered by the Positive Coaching Alliance. In addition, there will be no more problems with picture ID cards, which is what started the problem in the first place. The requirement that each player have a photo ID will be strictly enforced.
"Before we started the season I was telling everyone we need to have the cards in on time,'' Rodriguez says. "We kind of kept trying to hold it in, hold it in. But now, no more excuses. No card -- no team.''
That's a great idea. But what can really come out of this is a spirit of reaching out, rather than pointing fingers.
Bruce Greenlee's taken the first step. He has suggested he might like to help by coaching the team.
Now let's see what the Cabritos say in reply.
E-mail C.W. Nevius at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:
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