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Soccer Hooligans

Allistair Santiago

soccer-field.jpgIt finally happened. It was just a matter of time, really. To be fair, we lasted longer than any previous year, but now it’s official: my fellow hooligans and I have been kicked off of the public soccer fields again.

It happened at last week’s game. We were playing on one of North Vancouver District’s public sports fields. We had been there no more than an hour when a district truck pulled up. It sat for ten minutes, the driver visibly scribbling something in his notebook. The truck rocked violently as the driver then extricated himself from the driver’s seat. His silhouette dwarfed the truck considerably in the setting sun as he plodded across the field towards us [pardon the continued editorializing. ed.], occasionally suspiciously snapping shots with a small cameral.

Having noticed the gentleman, our game had ground to an unceremonious halt by the time he reached us. Already knowing what to expect, I addressed the man. Ignoring my greetings, he ham-fistedly thrust me a printed email addressed to an unknown someone.

Read this out loud,” he said. Bewildered and put off but unwilling to escalate the situation (just yet), I did as told. I had read no more than three words aloud when he triumphantly snatched the page back from me.

Oh, good” he declared, “so you can read.”

I narrowed my eyes, understanding what had transpired. “You’re a clever man, big guy” I said.

His porcine features contorted satisfyingly in a grimace of dislike, and I decided I had somehow already pushed my luck to its brink. Leaving my friends to deal more elegantly with the offensive gentleman, I headed for the sidelines.

The lecture was the usual. I overheard it. Coaches are complaining that we’re ruining the fields that they and their players pay for. Fields are closed to “groups practicing.” Possible fines. Possible police action. Get off the field now or else. The usual, again. So we left, again.

So, this keeps happening. Every year, sooner or later we get kicked off. And I’ve tried being nice and responsible about it. I’ve tried to chase down the specific bylaws, but found only a bureaucratic labyrinth worthy of Theseus. It turns out that the proverbial left hand has no idea that the right hand even exists, let alone what it’s doing.

No one seems to know the exact rules of public field usage and no one seems to know anyone who might. The District sent me to the City; the City sent me to the Parks Board; the Parks Board sent me (back) to the District; the District said they were wrong the first time and sent me to the Rec Commission; the Rec Commission sent me back to the Parks Board. Having already learned my lesson, I didn’t bother chasing it further.

Since then we’ve been renegade. We’ve been underground – a small group of resistance fighters, clandestinely striking out against sports-related injustice, and exercising our rights (pun fully intended).

In all seriousness, though, I’d like to ask for some help with this problem. If you’re reading this and have any ideas as to how to proceed, I’d love to hear from you. I’m not clear on what the specific rules are in this case and to what extent a public field can be used by the public, so any pointers would be appreciated.

The bottom line is that, as a taxpayer, I feel entitled to certain returns. It feels like I do my part to pay for the field’s upkeep and should be allowed to use it once a week for a ten-player, pick-up game of soccer. But the only definitive response I’ve been given has been an overweight man in a truck saying “I want people to exercise; I value exercise. But you gotta get off this field or I’m calling the cops.

[tags]soccer, exercise, public ground, soccer practice, soccer game, soccer field[/tags]

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