For the second time, Norwalk-La Mirada school officials have declared athletic fields off-limits to adult soccer teams after receiving complaints of players urinating and changing clothes in public.
The school board banned adult teams from all athletic fields in the district last week at the request of board member Rudy Bermudez, a longtime critic of the adult leagues.
The district first cracked down on adult soccer in December, 1991, when neighbors complained about litter, drinking and offensive behavior. Board members relented shortly afterward and voted to allow adult games if sheriff’s deputies were present at all adult games. The move still effectively banned the teams because of the expense of hiring a deputy. But in June, the school board loosened the rules to allow adult teams back onto the fields as long as they had security guards on duty.
Bermudez said he called for the new ban after he spotted North American Soccer Organization players at Excelsior High School stripping down to their underwear, in full view of neighboring homeowners and passing motorists.
“It was the most disgusting behavior I’ve ever seen,” Bermudez said. Neighbors also reported that the players urinated and defecated in public, he said.
In addition to banning the adult teams, the board banned North American Soccer’s youth teams from playing on district fields because the organization violated an agreement to hold only youth league games at Excelsior, Assistant Supt. LaGayle Black said.
Youth soccer teams sponsored by other organizations may continue to play on school grounds as long as they obey the rules, she said.
Manny Cevallas, who heads the North American Soccer Organization, vowed to get the board’s decision overturned, but declined to discuss his plans.
“It is completely unfair,” said Cevallas, whose group sponsors about a dozen leagues in Norwalk.
Other soccer representatives said they were being penalized when they had done nothing wrong.
“In my opinion, it’s not fair,” said Willy Recarte, president of the Americas Soccer Teams Assn., which sponsors four leagues in Norwalk. “The problem was with the (North American Soccer) Organization, not us. We never had any problems with the neighbors.”
Stephen Wood, a Norwalk resident, said some homeowners have lobbied for years to prevent soccer leagues from playing on school grounds.
In an effort to persuade board members, homeowners have used video and still cameras to document that the soccer players were drinking and urinating in front of their homes.
“We see it as a victory for the homeowners, the entire group of homeowners surrounding the affected schools,” Wood said of the board’s action. “We’ve been trying to get that decision for 2 1/2 years. And it finally occurred to this board that no matter what they do, these teams are not going to obey the law.”
But at least one member of the board says he would be willing to change the policy again, if soccer teams can prove they are responsible and will follow the rules. If that happens, Trustee Salvador Ambriz said the board should be willing to reconsider.
“If a team comes in and says, ‘We’re going to follow your rules and regulations,’ I don’t think anything’s etched in concrete,” Ambriz said.