BERLIN - It seemed like there was more arguing on the pitch than actual soccer during Saturday’s Nutmeg Games 18U girls soccer tournament.
Tensions rose early and often as the Elite Nation FC of New Britain questioned many of the calls made by the referees during its match against the West Haven Blue Devils at Sage Park, one that resulted in a 4-0 loss.
“The referees dictated a lot of the game, which shouldn’t be,” said New Britain head coach Zelvin Philips after his team was eliminated from the tournament. “They should be objective in every decision and they weren’t. I feel like the referees made the game what it ended up to be. They not only impacted the score, but impacted all of the emotions of the players.”
It all started with an incident involving Elite Nation’s Allyson Kerr. The forward had been playing with long braids with wooden beads in her hair since the competition began earlier this week. But when one of the Blue Devils was hit in the face, West Haven coach Wayne Valajitis brought it to the refs’ attention solely for safety purposes.
“When she whipped her hair, it hit one of my girls right in the face with the beads,” Valajitis said. “You’re not supposed to have anything hard in your hair, so I just asked to remove them or even just pull up the pony tail so it doesn’t swing. I don’t care about the beads personally, but when they swing around they become kind of a weapon.”
Kerr and the rest of New Britain did not understand what the problem was, especially since she had been playing all week without an issue.
“I had a couple of beads at the bottom of my hair,” Kerr said. “I’ve been playing with them all tournament, and all of a sudden, the ref comes over and says that people are complaining and that they’re getting hit with the beads, getting hit with my hair. But if I take the beads out, it really doesn’t matter because they’re still going to get hit with my hair. I cut the beads off the end of my hair and got back on the field.”
But the beads in the hair wasn’t the only issue. Elite Nation believed many of the calls on the field were poor, including an offsides call which negated the team’s lone goal after West Haven had scored twice in the second half to make it 4-0.
“Instead of calling the offsides call, he made a call on us saying one of our players pushed down the girl,” Kerr said. “They said whatever the interaction was happened 10 yards further down. From that point it was a back and forth with the ref.”
When running events, the Nutmeg staff always tries to make decisions in the best interest of the players and the players safety. When things seemed to be getting out of hand, an event director was called to the field to ensure the Games continued on smoothly.
“I think our staff did a very good job with calming things down,” said Pat Fisher, the Executive Director of the Nutmeg Games.”There was a controversial call that started things off on the wrong foot. It’s a competitive tournament and everyone wants to win.”
Although the focus was on more than just the play on the field, New Britain still had positive takeaways from the match and the tournament..
“There were times were both teams were dominating,” Kerr said. “[West Haven] was definitely running circles around us but then there were times where we were running circles around them as well. I enjoyed this. It was fun and I had a lot of fun playing. Unfortunately we will not be moving on to the next round, but I definitely want to do it again next year.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org