Fight among adults troubles soccer league

Parents upset over
decision to ban the
two men from league

Staff Writer

Fight among adults
troubles soccer league
Parents upset over
decision to ban the
two men from league
Staff Writer

The Sayreville Soccer Association has been less focused on soccer in recent weeks, with local families turning their attention toward a clash between two adults affiliated with the organization.

Even through public discussion and mediation from Borough Council members, the sharply divided sides are finding it difficult to move beyond the conflict. For players of youth soccer in Sayreville, precious soccer-playing time is being jeopardized by adult disputes.

The event in question, judged as an altercation by some and an attack by others, involved Frank Medina of Spotswood, a local coach, and Jerry Forest of Parlin, a member of the Sayreville Recreation Committee. It happened Feb. 10 outside a girls’ draft pick meeting at the Sayreville Soccer Complex on Dolan Street.

Police reports were filed by both men, and each account indicates that a verbal dispute preceded a physical altercation. Soccer officials say the incident was witnessed by two parents, though witness accounts are not included in the police reports.

Forest, who filed a report immediately following the incident, told police he was threatened by Medina, which led him to punch Medina in the left eye. Forest did not wish to sign complaints at the time, according to his police report.

According to the police report filed by Medina the next day, the two men had a verbal dispute and, minutes later, Forest "took Medina’s head and slammed it into a wall/door."

Medina was treated at Raritan Bay Medical Center, Old Bridge division, for injuries resulting from the incident and later decided to press charges against Forest.

The origins of the dispute reportedly involved a rumored attempt by one of the men to have a certain soccer player removed from the league.

The incident prompted the soccer association to form a committee that took official action by immediately suspending both men. Medina, a coach of three soccer teams, and Forest are barred from involvement with the soccer association.

In the weeks since Feb. 10, the soccer community has reacted with a mix of anger, outrage, adamant support and frustration — emotions that have only further clouded the events of the altercation and deepened the breach within the organization.

At a meeting of the Sayreville Soccer Association, held on March 3, the issue brought out a large crowd, eager to discuss the incident and the resulting suspensions.

Police officers were present at the meeting, which also was attended by Borough Council members John Melillo and Thomas Pollando. Even though the Borough Council is not formally involved in the incident, the councilmen seized the opportunity to address the crowd.

"This league governs itself," Melillo said. "The association handled the situation and that’s where it has to stay. If you people want to overturn that, I think it’s wrong."

"You’ve got a great organization here; let’s not tear it down," Pollando said. "Let’s move forward. It’s not good for our town and it’s not good for this association."

The public was asked to refrain from comments, though tempers and angry opinions prompted some to walk out of the meeting. If nothing else, the public reaction showed the fiery opinions that people hold about the organization and its decision.

"I taught my child not to raise her hands to another child," said one parent. "What am I supposed to say when an adult raises his hand to another adult? How do I justify that to my child?"

"I’m heartbroken because my daughter has no coach," said another.

"Have faith in your governing body," said Melillo. "If you don’t like it, there are other leagues in other towns and you can take your business elsewhere."

"We have no faith in this organization," shouted several members of the audience.

The audience then accused league officials of imposing an unfair punishment made by a biased disciplinary committee, a suggestion that league President Rosie DeSimon denied.

"We were told to form a disciplinary committee and I did it the next day," DeSimon said, explaining that she chose a cross-section of league officials.

Accusations of foul play and bias on the part of league officials were voiced by the public.

Francine McCracken, Medina’s fiancée, told the officials that she and Medina felt that they had no choice but to press charges against Forest in an effort to clear Medina’s name and earn him the right to coach again.

"I wasn’t getting a lawyer, but you’re forcing my hand," McCracken said. She said there was too much pressure on the decision that would be made in court. "Frank’s coaching duties shouldn’t depend on this."

Executive board member Curtis Clark, who is also on the Sayreville Board of Education, later spoke to the public about adult anger at youth sporting events.

"Almost 27 states across the United States have had to implement harsh rules," Clark said. "Our parents on the sidelines are a reflection of the coach."

Clark told the public that an executive board member will now be present at every game to ensure that adults do not react with violence again, endangering the youth players.

Rather than resolve the issue, the meeting brought to light the depth and severity of the discord within the organization, leaving many parents with concern for the direction of the program.

Pollando has since arranged separate meetings with the Medina and Forest families, as well as league officials, in an effort to bring resolution.

"The families want this to end, but they want to see what the penalties will be," Pollando said, "and the league has yet to come up with [the parameters of] the suspension."

The Borough Council accepted Forest’s resignation from his mayor-appointed position on the Sayreville Recreation Committee on Monday night.