NEWS

B.C. Soccer Team Banned Over Lack of Indo-Canadian Players

08/14/2012 12:15 EDT | Updated 08/12/2013 02:19 EDT
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A Surrey soccer association is defending its decision to ban a boys' team from playing in its tournament because they don't have enough players who are Indo-Canadian.

The Indo-Canadian Tournaments Association and the United Summer Soccer League want to bring together young South Asian migrants or descendants of South Asian migrants to promote sport, participation and culture.

But according to mom Debbie Christiansen, her 13-year-old son Blake and his entire team, were barred from playing in a youth soccer tournament organized by the association because they had too many "imports".

An import is any player who is not of South Asian origin. Governing body the United Summer Soccer Association currently allows a two non Indo-Canadian players for all divisions with the exception of boys under age 13 and 14 and girls under 14, which are allowed four imports.

Christiansen said the rules are unfair.

"It's 2012. We shouldn't have organizations by skin colour," Christiansen said.

“All the different ethnicities and backgrounds, they get along great. They mesh very well as a team. They work hard as a team. And they have been denied the opportunity to play as a team because of their skin colour."

Sikh gurdwaras

In a statement, league president Sim Sumra said tournaments have historically been sponsored by Sikh gurdwaras who want to encourage Indo-Canadian participation in the sport.

"As with all of the association rules, the volunteer board of directors meets each winter to discuss any and all potential rule changes for the upcoming season," he said.

"The rule in question will also be assessed, but we as a board remain committed to the spirit of the intent of the league."

Since 1982, the league has grown from just two teams to more than 400 teams this season. According to Sumra, the association's community volunteers also host a league for players aged five to eleven, open to players of all ethnic backgrounds.

"We respect the rights of all other ethnic community based soccer leagues in B.C., as well as dozens of others across the country, in many different sports, to have their leagues run as they choose," added Sumra.

Human rights advocate Robin Durling said the association is not breaking the law.

"There are all sorts of exemptions to say that it's okay to sometimes exclude certain kinds of people to make a better place for a different kind of people," Durling said.