Games Grownups Play

Recruiting violations. Cutthroat competion. Big money. Larger egos. It isn't NCAA football. It's kids' soccer, Dallas style.

According to sources who have heard the tape, the two women discussed an orchestrated effort to report coaches from other clubs--including Sidekicks star Tatu--to soccer authorities for alleged recruiting violations. They also shared gossip that other people involved with the Texans were thinking of reporting certain coaches in other clubs to the Internal Revenue Service.

Newsom--who would not be interviewed for this story--wasn't sure what to do with the tape, according to sources close to the incident. He turned it over to the Classic League president, Leonard Robertson, and the actions and discipline committee director, Paul Ditto. Ditto went to the Texans' board president at the time and told him any such activities described on the tape would not be tolerated.

The episode seemed to blow over--until late May, when the two women on the tape filed ethics charges against Newsom with NTSSA, complaining that he had illegally taped their conversation. The Texans club president also went to the NTSSA, Ditto confirms, claiming Ditto had threatened him with the tape.

In her letter of complaint to the board president, Bradford wrote: "I can't believe that the game of soccer that is for our children has adults committing these antics."

In her letter, Bradford explained that she believed for some time that her phone calls were being taped, and, "I would from time to time allude to imaginary incidents and hope if I was being recorded, than [sic] the incident would be acted upon by the perpetrators."

Bradford refused to discuss the taping incident with the Observer. "I'm not going to go into it," she says. "It shouldn't have happened. It was very bizarre."

After a hearing on the matter, at which the Classic League president Robertson testified on Newsom and Ditto's behalf, the actions and discipline committee of the NTSSA, which refused to listen to the tape, voted to put Ditto and Robertson on probation for a year for their handling of the situation, according to sources close to the league leadership. The committee gave Newsom a three-year sentence, suspending him from administrative duties in soccer for a year, and putting him on probation for the following two years.

"I've never seen a grown man so deflated in all my life," says one of Newsom's close friends.

This fall season, select soccer was once again rocked by controversy, and again the Texans were at the controversy's epicenter.

During the Classic League qualifying tournament in August, the manager for another team thought one of the Texans' under-11 boys looked like a kid he had seeR>n on another under-11 team the year before. With a little checking, the league officials discovered that the boy was in fact too old to play in the under-11 age group. Later they determined the boy's birth certificate had been altered.

The Classic League permanently banned the boy and his guardian from the league and penalized the team. The team was allowed to play all of its games, but the games were recorded as forfeits.

"I was pretty upset," says Jim Rosenthal, whose son Jeffrey was in his first year of select and played goalie for the team. "Here we were paying all this money, my kid was working hard, and the games didn't count."

The other shoe dropped when the team manager discovered that the guardian's own son--who was also on the team--was also too old. The league gave the team the same punishment for the spring season. Nazari confirms that the incident occurred.

"We were angry, our kids were angry," says Rosenthal, "but I guess it was one of life's lessons that cheating doesn't get you anywhere."

Rosenthal's son, Jeffrey, is equally philosophical about the matter: "What was that parent teaching his kid?"

"Sometimes I think if adults weren't involved, it would be a good thing all around," says Rosenthal.

The bickering and backbiting of the past two years seems to have quieted down just in time for the opening of select soccer's spring season this weekend. Diego and Kathy Castro's Genesis teams--including the ill-fated Genesis '85 boys team--have been allowed to defect. Several clubs were eager to pick up the Castros and their Classic League teams, but finally decided to join Inter, the club run by the grandparent duo of Dick and Jackie Stanford. A few weeks ago, the Genesis board met and agreed to refund the teams' dues that parents had paid in advance. But the board voted to keep several hundred dollars of the money, in order to fully refund the fall season dues of the two players from Genesis '85 who chose to remain.

The NTSSA recently made some rulings to limit recruiting abuses. The most important rule prohibits players from changing teams in midseason except under extenuating circumstances, and then only after an NTSSA hearing.

Hassan Nazari is still involved with his Texans and the Olympic Development Program, but people say he seems to be keeping a lower profile this year. "That's true," Nazari says. "I was hurt by what happened but, you know, we're still winning."

The clubs which met at the Harvey Hotel to vent their frustrations at the Dallas Texans say they have stronger, more trusting relationships with each other than they did before.

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