At SAS, a group of students led by varsity soccer player Grayson Barnes have taken it upon themselves to establish their own Sunday League club, but little did they know of the obstacles to come. From the registration process to the hostility of opposing teams, Redhill United FC was not easy to manage.
Redhill United is managed by three SAS students: Grayson Barnes, Nikhil Raj, and Seiji Takahashi.
“I want to give soccer players at SAS an opportunity to experience club soccer before they graduate. I don’t see many SAS students continue to play soccer after their varsity or IASAS careers,” Barnes said.
Now a senior, Grayson Barnes had always wanted to manage his own soccer club. He had talked about making one with his friends, but only recently decided it was time to make his vision a reality.
Barnes first looked into a local Sunday soccer league called ESPZen. When he tried to register, the ESPZen administrators turned him down as he was two weeks late to the registration deadline. Grayson persisted and stayed in touch with the administrators for weeks until he had finally persuaded them to make Redhill United an official Sunday league squad.
Redhill United became the youngest squad in the league, as other teams are comprised of players in their 20s and 30s.
Redhill is one of two teams in the ESPZen league that is made up entirely of expats. The squad has frequently been victim to hostility and racial slurs thrown by members of the opposing team.
During their game on Jan. 25, they claim to have been verbally assaulted by the referee. Redhill players were called “ang mo,” Singaporean slang for Caucasian people, which literally translates to red-haired. When players confronted the ref about his conduct and questionable calls throughout the game, they were reportedly told to shut up and get back in position.
In the same game, Redhill’s star striker Sam Day-Weiss was quite severely injured in the head by a reckless header. Play is supposed to be stopped by the ref immediately after any injury to the head, but play was not paused while Day-Weiss was being helped off the pitch.
Manager Seiji Takahashi said, “I really enjoy coming out to see the guys have fun as a team, but after that game I felt like no one had a good time on the pitch.”
As a team made up of expat teenagers, Redhill is often belittled by their older and physically stronger opposition.
Junior Tristan Grigg talked about his experience on the team. “When we play against adults, they’re taken aback by the fact that they’re playing teenagers. That doesn’t stop them from being schmucks. Games start pretty tame, but the words they throw at us get a lot more harsh later on. Generally it’s a fun experience, though, and it gives you a good idea of what to expect from players that don’t play for scholastic leagues.”
The team consists of 20 SAS students that are constantly swapped in and out of the starting roster for their weekly games on Sundays. Students are evaluated on their play and soccer experience, as the three managers balance the squad strategically.
Teams are placed in divisions made of 10 teams and play 18 games in a season. If a team places first in their division at the end of a season, they are given the opportunity to climb a division. Currently, Redhill United is in Division 3.
The club is mainly managed by the three managers online, through Facebook or Google Drive. Raj is in charge of social media updates, Takahashi handles the media (photo and video), and Barnes takes care of league business while occasionally playing in the squad himself. The three do formations and strategy together.
Redhill has played five games so far. Their current record is 1 win, 2 draws, 2 losses. Barnes said, “Redhill is about the experience and not so much performance, and considering we’re the youngest team in the league, I’d say we’re a pretty solid team.”