Pride Football Scrambling to Salvage Lost Season

The North East Conference Youth Football League (NECYFL), which Chelsea Pride participated in, led by league President Luis Spano and a board comprised of several other acting presidents from surrounding cities, unanimously voted Tuesday night to restrict Chelsea Pride from playing its upcoming season as a member of their conference.

The announcement came on the heels of an internal investigation by the NECYFL that determined the Chelsea Pride administration had broken league rules during the 2011 season by allowing an overage youth, whose name was undisclosed because he is a minor, to participate.

The ruling handed down has ended the Chelsea Pride football season just two weeks before it was set to start, with the NECYFL already stripping Chelsea’s schedule from their website.

Since the inception of the Chelsea Pride youth football organization in 2008, over 150 of the city’s youth, ranging from first graders to eight graders, have had a place to learn and grow within the constructive team format of the only fall sport offered to both boys and girls  within the city.  Without a full schedule, or a league to play for this season, all of the leagues youth will be displaced this fall without any hope of signing for another league because deadlines for that have already passed. The parents and children part of Chelsea Pride were informed Wednesday of the matter, and will be offered reimbursements of money paid if they choose, according to Chelsea Pride treasury Karol Monsalve.

Nelson Medina, who was president of Chelsea Pride prior to Tuesday’s board meeting with the NECYFL, voluntarily stepped down and will no longer head the program for his involvement in the incident in 2011. Under the NECYFL 2012 rules and guidelines, proven falsified documents come with a fine of $500 for the league and the president is asked to step down. According to Medina, The NECYFL board did not follow their league guidelines and instead chose to hand down the “Death Penalty” to Chelsea by erasing their season all together. Medina, stepped down on his own in hopes the board would reconsider and save Chelsea’s season. An injunction was also proposed so that the penalties can be assessed after this season but both efforts were denied.

Spano was contacted but could not be reached for comments.

“I broke down [in the meeting with NECYFL],” said Medina. “They didn’t see the purpose of what I was doing,” he said, referring to how he helped a young man stay off the streets in 2011 by allowing him to continue to play although he was two months too old for the league. He admitted his way of going about it did break the rules and he accepts all the penalties but feels the children, too, should not have to pay for his mistake. “This is why we have these programs, to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. The particular kid who I tried to help got back into the mess on the streets following that season. I did what I thought was right at the time and I take full responsibility for it. But I don’t think all these children should pay for it. We’re sending the wrong message as adults to do something like this to these kids.”

Head coach and parent, Jesus Rivera, whose son Jesus Rivera Jr. plays for Chelsea Pride, only wants for the kids to be able to play. “I know I speak not only for myself but for all the parents involved with this program when I say they [the kids] matter most,” He said. “As a parent and coach, all I want to see is the season continuing for the kids. Let the punishment on the adults stay there, or even wait till after the season, but to dash all these kid’s hopes weeks before their season starts is just wrong.”

Robert Yee, a head coach in the program, admitted it will be an uphill battle to help continue to keep the program alive this season but that the fight to provide a safe haven for the displaced players is not over just yet. “The organization is still alive,” he said. “But we have to find games to play. There is a chance there will be no games this season, but that won’t stop us from trying to work together with staff and parents to try and facilitate the best program we can given the situation.”

With the season lost and the future of the program in the balance, parents and coaches have put together an online petition to try and salvage the season. The petition has already been signed by nearly 200 people, with support raining in from New Hampshire down to Florida, in just two days.

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