Yesterday, my family and I headed to my daughter’s indoor soccer game already knowing we were two girls down. We brought pinnies just in case any other girls didn’t show up and give our team the necessary five players, figuring the Ref would allow us to borrow extra kids from our opponent. And when we arrived, we found gut instincts had steered us right.
Only four girls showed.
Insert nervous, sweating parents. Our girls, some who don’t even weigh forty pounds, going up against a team of ALL boys. And not just any boys, the house team with the best record, the oldest boys, and lots of subs and kids who’ve played indoor soccer their whole lives and nothing else and know how to work the field.
Now our girls freaking rock for only having played in this arena five times, but being down against the toughest team from the get go? Not good.
My husband goes to the referee, a tall, skinny dude in an orange and black shirt with a very close to bald head, and asks if we can even up the team a bit by borrowing some players.
“Nah, just let them play,” he says, as if it’s no big deal to play five boys against four girls.
He should have at LEAST only allowed the other team four boys on the field. AT LEAST. But what did the Ref do? He let the other coach play FIVE boys, one of whom had to weigh ninety pounds, against FOUR girls.
And almost instantly the other team dominated.
The boys repeatedly ganged up on our strongest offensive player every time she touched the ball. And I mean GANGED UP. They saw how amazingly good she is and laser-focused on her. One boy ran up from behind, jumped (both feet off the ground, which is not a legal move) in front of her, SHOVED her to the ground, and ran off with the ball.
The ref’s response to this girl jumping to her feet, red in the face, a big welt on her arm, looking for a penalty? “That’s okay. Just keep playing.”
And when that boy scored a goal on our team with that very same ball he just illegally stole? “Good job, boys!”
His comment to our six-year-old girl, only played goalie three times in her entire life? “Great job, goalie. Keep it up.”
Parents were furious but hopeful this man would actually start calling some of the many egregious fouls these boys were racking up, even though we’ve had this Ref before and know how much he favors the boy teams, so they didn’t get involved.
While shouting encouragements to our daughters, we cringed when the boys traded out tired players for fresh ones, when they would SLIDE into the ball, TRIP our girls, push, shove, kick the ball on the NET (out of bounds), and jump up and down when they scored their twenty-fifth goal. (And yes, I’m just as mad at the other coach as I am the Ref.)
So, what happens when parents witness their children getting beaten up by not only the other team but the Referee too? Well, one of them says something to said Referee about how he keeps allowing these boys to rack up penalty after penalty without doing anything about it, right next to the spot where a boy tripped his daughter and rammed her into the wall.
“I do everything I can to run a CLEAN, SAFE game. Any time you think you can do a better job than me, or that I’m not running a CLEAN, SAFE game, you are more than welcome to lodge a complaint.”
We’ll get back to THAT in a moment.
Said parent zips his lips, and the game resumes.
Just before the start of the second half, a fifth player arrived and evened out the teams. With our confidence boosted a bit with the extra player, the boys attacked harder, continuing their penalties, and the Ref continued his, “Good job, boys.”
Did any of our girls cry? Fat freaking chance. They were pissed.
And when our strong offensive players got the ball in scoring position and were about to shoot, one of the boys, not the goalie, PICKED UP THE BALL! He freaking PICKED UP THE GOD FORSAKEN SOCCER BALL.
What did the Ref say to this?
He waved his hand and said, “Just keep playing.”
I bet you can guess what that parent did, can’t you? He lodged a freaking complaint.
And it wasn’t because we were losing some thirty to two or whatever it was. Hell, we’ve lost before. We’ve lost bad before. The parent lodged the complaint because everything these boys did that referee turned a blind eye to. And you know what? He wasn’t doing them any favors. When they get into a better league and get penalty after penalty, they’ll either wonder why or get thrown out.
That referee was also teaching those boys something deeply disturbing, something that I haven’t been able to let go of since we left yesterday afternoon: He was teaching boys they are better than girls. That they’re stronger. That they’re more important. That they can do no wrong. That they deserved to win more.
That girls shouldn’t even be there.
As the boys left the arena yesterday, celebrating their win, cheering and smiling and laughing, I felt sad. Sad they had such piss poor examples of humanity surrounding them. Sad our team of girls experienced such mistreatment at a young age (even though I know it’s going to make them tougher and fight harder!).
And I was sad this vicious cycle of boys thinking of girls as beneath them would continue for another generation in my lifetime.