BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – After a highly anticipated rematch between the Enosburg and Winooski men’s soccer teams on Tuesday, Enosburg is heading to the state finals. The match was played without spectators after lingering tensions over allegations of racial slurs and violence during a game between the teams earlier this fall.
Players from both teams ran onto the pitch as they were introduced for the D3 semi-final match, but it was not in front of a crowd. Fans were denied access by schools and the Vermont Principals’ Association over fears that vitriol resulting from the previous game between the two teams would spill over into the stands and spoil the game.
“Quite frankly, there’s enough acrimony on both sides from people who aren’t educators – that is, parents or community members complaining to the other side and say it’s all the fault of the other side – that we just thought it was putting the kids on a bad streak,” said VPA’s Jay Nichols.
In September, Winooski’s superintendent alleged that three Enosburg team members made racist comments toward Winooski’s players. Enosburg conducted an investigation which found no wrongdoing on the part of its players. The Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union has requested a third-party investigation through the VPA, but Nichols says the schools have not agreed to have one at this time.
Enosburg also accused Winooski of extremely aggressive gambling, and video of a headbutt by a Winooski team member sparked a police investigation, a case that has since been dismissed by the County State’s Attorney. Chittenden.
Both schools called off their second regular season game, but the 2nd-seeded Spartans and 3rd-seeded Hornets were on a collision course for Tuesday’s semifinal which ended 3- 2.
Nichols says there were too many comments on social media from people in both places as well as other communities in the state that it didn’t make sense to have them all in one place. “For us, the whole public persona was so divisive and a powder keg that we decided — these are school sports, people don’t like the fact that they can’t come, it’s a shame, but we are gonna put the kids first,” he said.
The match was broadcast live so parents and fans could still watch.
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