Tensions Unravel Integrity of Campo-Acalanes Rivalry

Sophomore Brendan Baldelli heading the ball near the goal.

Campolindo faced Acalanes in the varsity boys soccer game at Bob Wilson Stadium on January 5. The intensity of the rivalry quickly overtook the game and led to a number of interruptions that soon unraveled the integrity of the game. With two critical red cards and consistent interruptions, tensions began to boil over, making it difficult for the referees to regain control of the game.

Campo began the game strongly, keeping the majority of possession for the first ten minutes. As Acalanes got more comfortable in the away stadium, they began to interrupt Campolindo’s possession with aggressive pressure from the Acalanes forwards and midfielders. Campolindo planned to respond to the high press by “possess[ing] out of it but also be dangerous with a longball threat,” said Head Coach Stephan Clemens. This combination of tactics worked successfully for the first stages of the game, however the high press began to make long spells of possession difficult for Campolindo. Acalanes found a strong spell of possession around the tenth minute of the game and received a multitude of corners. Through that attacking spell, Acalanes sophomore Johnny Roth found a successful rebound off of a corner kick, giving Acalanes a 1 goal lead in the 12th minute of the game. Scoring the goal “definitely inspired [Acalanes] because they came out with more intensity after they scored, making their high press harder to deal with,” said junior Holden Anderson.

The game remained relatively even in terms of possession and chance creation throughout the rest of the first half, meaning that all three results were possible, but continuous interruptions arose due to the referees talking to players and calling a substantial amount of fouls. This consistent stoppage “interrupted the flow of the game,” Clemens explained, which contributed to the brewing animosity on the field. Eventually the stoppage led to Clemens “losing [his] cool,” Clemens said, prompting him to have a conversation with the referees early in the 2nd half. This conversation ultimately led to him receiving a red card, meaning that Coach Clemens was forced to leave the field and could no longer participate in the game’s proceedings. Clemens apologized for his actions, but stated that, “[he] thought that [the referee] could have taken ownership and kept the game and the game flow going.” While a coach getting sent off often impacts a team in a problematic way, junior Paulo Trento stated that “it fueled their fire and made [them] want to beat Acalanes even more.” The game resumed with a drastic change in atmosphere in the stadium and newly formed tensions between fans, players, coaches, and referees.

“The breaking point of the game,” according to sophomore Carson Helder, “was when Connor Flynn received a red card.” After being slide tackled and surrounded by two Acalanes players, Flynn stood his ground by bumping two Acalanes players aside, leading to his 2nd yellow card of the game. This contributed to even more animosity between everyone in the stadium. The increase in anxiety and anger among the referees had dramatic ramifications for the last 3rd of the game. As tensions built further and more of the calls and game stoppage infuriated spectators and players, the pressure got to the referees, leading to a long pause in the game with 20 minutes left to play. During the pause, teams went into separate huddles to talk about the rest of the game, telling each other to “keep their heads, and not to get too angry,” said Helder.

Associate Principal Vanessa Knight engaged in a conversation with the referees as they were deciding how to proceed. “My job is to support the safety and maintain order at events to ensure a safe environment,” Knight said. The fate of the game was unclear, but “[the team] expected the game to go on, ” said junior Milan Stoyanov. After 8 minutes of the referees conferring with one another, the game was called, meaning that it was concluded early. Acalanes obtained the victory due to the decisive goal from Roth in the 1st half.

Rumors circulated among the stadium regarding Knight’s involvement in the cancellation of the game. “It was the referees’ game to call… When the referees expressed to me that they were going to call the game, I was not in a position given outside circumstances of spectator behavior and sideline behavior to argue for a different outcome,” said Knight.

Despite the mayhem that came with this rivalry game, the team maintains high spirits and confidence going into the rest of the season. “I think if we come up with that kind of intensity in our upcoming games, we can really do well,” Stoyanov said.