Vancouver club is quick to discipline two players who turned on each other
BY IAIN MACINTYRE
VANCOUVER — Soccer is a global game, but the world is a big place with differing cultures and standards of behaviour.
With that in mind — and given the punchup during Friday’s United Soccer Leagues game between Vancouver Whitecap teammates Charles Gbeke and Wesley Charles — we offer 15 arbitrary rules about soccer culture as it should be here.
DO NOT celebrate goals by waving away teammates so the spotlight and glory are yours alone.
DO NOT dive unless there is a pool.
DO NOT get on a stretcher unless you plan to ride it to hospital where an organ donor is waiting.
DO NOT give away penalties.
DO NOT take beer from the cooler without paying.
DO NOT hack, then whine to the referee when you are hacked back.
DO NOT whine about anything else.
DO NOT ball watch.
DO NOT lobby to have opponents sent off.
DO NOT do anything but proceed directly and respectfully off when substituted.
DO NOT show up teammates.
DO NOT wear socks above the knee unless you are a Victoria’s Secret model.
DO NOT wear pantyhose when it is cold.
DO NOT hog all the free kicks.
DO NOT fight a teammate, at home, in front of paying fans, while your team is winning.
In many parts of the soccer world, the above is actually considered a DO list. Except for the rules about beer and fighting with teammates during games, which are universally understood and accepted.
And so first thing Monday the Whitecaps did their most honourable thing in 72 hours and indefinitely suspended Gbeke and Charles pending a USL review of Friday’s incidents at Swangard Stadium and an internal team audit of the beer fund.
“It’s the first time it has ever happened, and what we can’t afford to do is sweep it under the carpet,” Whitecap president Bob Lenarduzzi said. “I’ve had a lot of emails from fans offering up their opinions. In my own mind, I’m thinking: Do we even want these guys around? But when you calm down and think about it, it is once. We need to make sure they understand it’s not acceptable and if anything like this ever happens again — at halftime or on the training ground — ‘there’s the door and we don’t want to see any more of you.’ ”
In the 85th minute of the Whitecaps’ 3-2 win Friday against Miami, Gbeke and strike partner Marlon James botched a 2-on-1 break. Charles, the assistant captain, screamed at the forwards. When Gbeke barked back, Charles charged from his centreback position to engage his teammate in a brief punchup.
Charles was immediately red-carded while Gbeke somehow escaped with a yellow.
Unsatisfied, however, Gbeke managed to get a second yellow a couple of minutes later for practising his shooting on water bottles at the sideline after he was substituted.
Gbeke was booed by fans to the dressing room, where he was able to resume his confrontation with Charles. It was like sending two hockey players to serve their fighting majors in the same penalty box.
Lenarduzzi said the Whitecaps will set lengths for the players’ suspensions when they find out — possibly Tuesday — how long the USL will suspend Gbeke and Charles. Each faces an automatic, minimum one-game ban from the league.
“We probably won’t be going for a beer any time soon, but I don’t really have anything against him,” Charles said Monday, as Lenarduzzi made sure each faced the media after practice in Burnaby. “I shook his hand and for what happened on the pitch I apologized to him. This was out of character. Nothing like this ever happened to me before. I’m very embarrassed what happened. I let a lot of people down. People I don’t know, I let down and I’m very sorry for that.”
Gbeke, less effusive in his apology, said: “I’ll have to deal with the consequences.
We need to be accountable for the things that happened and make sure it doesn’t happen anymore because we’re in the public eye and need to conduct ourselves better. I’m embarrassed for my family and my teammates.”
Gbeke was already known for unseemly behaviour on the pitch, for demonstrating his exasperation with teammates. Waving your arms in frustration or sulking may be acceptable in much of the soccer world, but shouldn’t be tolerated here.
The 31-year-old was born in Ivory Coast and moved to Montreal when he was 14. Charles, 33, is from St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Whitecaps have players from nine countries.
“It matters,” Whitecap coach Teitur Thordarson said of the team’s culture and Gbeke’s gesticulations. “You have a bit of this on all teams. But we absolutely will do everything we can to get rid of that because it’s not what you need on the field. Not only are there cultural differences here, there are age differences. We have a lot of younger guys, and we want to teach them behaviour the club can be proud of.”
The Whitecaps play Saturday in Montreal.
“They know they let us down,” Vancouver captain Martin Nash said. “They let the coaches down, fans down, club down and now they’re going to have to work hard to earn everyone’s trust back.”
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