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Petaluma youth soccer game turns ugly

A youth soccer match between Petaluma and Sonoma teams devolved into a fight Sunday, sending one Sonoma soccer player to the hospital and leading to at least one Petaluma boy being cited for battery.

The fight came at the end of Sunday's game between Sonoma Valley Youth Soccer and Petaluma Youth Soccer League under-16 recreational teams.

The fight broke out for unknown reasons, resulting in at least one Petaluma boy punching a Sonoma player and kicking him in the head, according to Sonoma Police Chief Bret Sackett. Paramedics were called to the scene to treat the Sonoma player, who was later taken to the hospital for treatment. When a referee attempted to intervene, a Petaluma player pushed the official down, Sackett said. The referee apparently did not sustain serious injuries.

Police were called to the scene, but arrived after the fight had been broken up. Specifics on who was involved and what, exactly, transpired were unclear Wednesday morning, as police were still gathering details.

Sackett said police have requested from parents any information, photos or videos that might shed light on the incident. They're also working with the presidents of the leagues to gather more information, and Sackett said he was pleased by the presidents' responses.

"They seem concerned; they know a line was crossed," he said.

PYSL President Bill Bertolucci, who was not present at the game, said the league was still receiving information about the incident, but it was something the Petaluma league takes very seriously. "We don't condone this kind of behavior at all," he said.

In a prepared statement Bertolucci said, "We are very sad, disappointed and embarrassed by this occurrence, although we firmly believe that this was an isolated incident and is not a true representation of either club. We do not condone violence or unsportsmanlike behavior in any sport, and we sincerely apologize for this incident. We will convene a Protests, Appeals, and Disciplinary (PAD) Committee to impose disciplinary action and sanctions as deemed appropriate following a complete review of this incident.

Sackett agreed the issue should not be treated lightly.

"In 23 years, I've never dealt with a (youth sporting) situation as egregious as this," said Sackett, who has himself coached youth sports for years. "There's no room for this behavior in youth sports."

As of Tuesday night, one Petaluma boy, whose age Sackett could not provide, had been cited, and Sackett said it was likely that the other would soon be cited, as well. The juvenile unit of the district attorney's office will now decide whether or not to charge the youths.

(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@arguscourier.com.)


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