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Plan Would Kick Adult Soccer Out of Residential Areas

February 20, 1992|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORWALK — Controversial adult soccer games would get kicked out of some neighborhoods, but would not be booted out of Norwalk entirely under a compromise plan that school officials will consider tonight.

The plan would essentially end the Sunday games on school grounds in residential neighborhoods where they were generating complaints, and allow them at other schools particularly in commercial and industrial areas.

The new rules also would require coaches, league officials and most players to be local residents, and they include guidelines for stiffer security and more supervision.

"It's laying down the law and saying this is it: 'obey or get out,' " school board President Armando Moreno said. "They're going to be watched very carefully. They know it, and everybody else knows it."

The soccer games, which involve thousands of players and spectators, have been suspended since December by officials of the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.

Angry residents complained that soccer players and fans swarmed over their neighborhoods by the thousands--drinking, changing clothes and urinating in public. They also said players and spectators have made lewd remarks, clogged residential streets, and left behind mounds of dirty diapers and beer cans.

The proposed regulations would prohibit games at school fields surrounded by residential areas, including Nusser Elementary School, the district adult school and the old Excelsior High School site. The matches would likely resume at Norwalk High and Glenn High, where the games have not generated as many complaints. Glenn is in a largely commercial and industrial area.

League organizers have said they try to monitor their players closely and should not be penalized for the actions of a few. In particular, they object to a proposed rule that would require uniformed security officers at every game.

"I don't know why the school district wants to put every week a sheriff's officer in the school," said Miguel Cuevas, president of the Norwalk-Artesia Soccer League. "The league doesn't have any money to pay. The players probably get $6 an hour in their jobs, or less. The players don't have money to pay."

A number of area leagues would be forced out by the new residency requirement. A growing number of teams from outside the city had been using Norwalk schoolyards because of bans in other cities. Adult soccer has already been banned from Long Beach and Paramount school fields for some of the same reasons cited by Norwalk residents. The city of Norwalk still permits soccer, but only on one field.

"The soccer players mean well," board President Moreno said. "I think they're there to play. It's the spectators. The word doesn't get to them that there's a problem. But the players have to patrol the fields and make sure their guests abide by the rules, or they're out."

Board members decided against banning soccer outright because that would have forced them to ban all adult sports to be fair, Moreno said.

Some soccer defenders claim their sport is being unfairly singled out in large part because nearly all the players are Latino. Soccer officials insist that many soccer players live in some of the neighborhoods from which soccer has been banned. "We need the fields for the people living in this community," the league's Cuevas said.

Soccer games cause no more problems than any other large group activity, said team manager Daniel Moreno, who is not related to the board president. "There's baseball players that do the same thing," he said. "They throw bottles, they drink, but nobody reports that. I believe there's a little bit of racism behind it."

Daniel Moreno added, however, that the residents had a right to be upset by unruly soccer spectators. He said that he, too, believed more security was needed.

Soccer opponent Jim Honodel said the games were lowering his property value. "My argument was economics, economics, economics," Honodel said. "I see someone urinating in my yard, throwing a beer can in my yard. My feeling was, 'Hey pal, would you do this in your own back yard?' "

Honodel said the compromise plan would merely transfer the problem to another neighborhood. But resident Russell Chatterton said the proposal deserves a chance.

At least there would be no more games near his house, he said. "We've got our neighborhood back."

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