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Soccer is a sport that is played with lots of passion.  It is a game with no stoppages from the first whistle till the last whistle.  In a youth match that is typically 80-90 minutes long things happen as the match nears the final whistle.  Players are tired so they don’t think as clearly then when a hard tackle happens it is not uncommon to see some kind of retaliation.  This could simply be in the form of a word or two, a little push between the players or in extreme cases (and pretty rare) violent conduct.  In the first two instances some game management from the referee crew puts a damper on things pretty quickly and play can resume.  However in the third instance the referee has no choice but to send off the player that commits the violent conduct and then hope that his\her game management skills can keep the incident from escalating further.

I recently came across an article about a violent conduct incident during a High School match in New Mexico.  The article intrigued me for a couple of reasons.  First was headline NMAA investigating after fight during boys soccer match second was the pictures with the article.

As a High School soccer referee myself I have seen my share of hard physical play but I have yet to send off a player for Violent Conduct.  Mostly due to my game management style (at least that’s what I tell myself) and a little bit of luck when things have escalated.  So when I read articles like this I try to piece together possible scenarios and see how much is being blamed on the referee crew and how much is blamed on the players involved.  This particular incident seems to put some blame on the referee and his crew but I see a LOT of blame being put on the parents in the stands.  What is really interesting is the two players involved had a “friendly chat” the night before while watching a college game and have no history when playing against each other on their club teams.  So what causes this to happen? I’m not sure anyone can truly answer that except for the players themselves but I would strongly suggest that the parents on the sidelines encouraging the player involved to “punch him and make him eat grass” have a significant amount of responsibility.

As a photographer who has been taking lot’s of pictures at High School games I am truly impressed with Photographer Carlos Montoya and his professionalism to still get the picture while all this was happening.  I have missed many pictures because I sometimes forget I am at a game as a photographer and not as a fan so I put my camera aside to watch a great goal.  To keep yourself and the camera focused on the incident shows a lot of professionalism that I hope to someday achieve.  For more pictures and the write up from the photographer check out ABQ Sports Magazine go to page 23 for a series of pictures capturing the tackle and the ensuing kick.

Added 9/5/2014 – In a letter to the Editor a parent responds to the Albuquerque Journal article about the incident.