I counted the number of players who had their shirts off following American Samoa’s first-ever World Cup soccer win the other day, a singular victory reported on in The New York Times, and there were six. All happy fellows in good shape. Nothing to offend as far as I could tell, though if partial disrobing becomes the norm one shudders to think what will happen should it extend to boccie, bowling, shuffleboard, and bridge.
All by way of saying that I found the shirt-waving glee that followed East Hampton’s first-ever county championship in boys soccer not in the least offensive either.
Nor did the school’s athletic director, Joe Vas, who, having coached state-champion teams in boys and girls soccer in his career, is well acquainted with the rules. Nor did the team’s head coach, Rich King, or his assistant, Don McGovern. All were outraged — and justly so — when Bonac’s star center midfielder was red-carded, and thus banned from playing in the Long Island championship game — a game the Bonackers could well have been expected to win were Mario Olaya in the lineup.
That’s why it was a bit galling to learn not long afterward that Jericho, which had defeated East Hampton 2-1, went on to win the Class A state title as well.
There was no objection to Olaya’s initial yellow-carding for having delayed the restart of the county championship game after shirtlessly celebrating what proved to be the winning goal that he scored with 34 seconds left on the clock.
But there was to his postgame red-carding, which followed upon the team’s brief celebration with its fans at the far end of the field, nowhere near Sayville’s bench.
East Hampton’s athletic director has said the excessive-celebration rule, whose purview is confined to the time in which a game is contested, was in this case “misapplied.” And he has asked the state’s soccer rules committee to confirm this contention.
To have merited a red card after the game, Olaya, he maintains, would have had to have been found guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct of some kind. Yet that clearly was not the case, he and King have said. Olaya was not taunting Sayville’s players, nor was he rubbing their noses in it, nor was he showboating. He had merely, along with his teammates, rushed over to share the historic moment — for just a few moments — with their schoolmates, their parents, their teachers, and other well-wishers.
While time cannot be rolled back, a clarification of the rules, Vas and King say, should prevent such an injustice from ever occurring again in Suffolk.