Reno Hispanics Abandon
Local Pro Soccer Team

  by Randy Gray
  Sports Editor

  copyright 1996, Electric Nevada

A thick, dark line has been drawn right down the middle of Truckee Meadows soccer fields.  
On one side is the Reno Rattlers. On the other is the Northern Nevada Soccer League.
"It's very divisive," said Mike Simon, owner and operator of the Rattlers.
Simon lashed out at a "lack of support" by Reno's Mexican community following the Rattlers' home game last Saturday, when only 250 paying customers appeared. Attendance has been less than 1,000 for the first two home games of the professional team, which plays in the Select League of the U.S. International Soccer League.
"The Mexican people want everything segregated here," Simon said. "They think their soccer is it and that we don't know anything about running it or playing it. They decided not to support us. It's a racial issue. Soccer should be able to transcend racial things. I'm dealing with a small-minded group of people."
Fernando Corona, vice president of the predominantly Hispanic Northern Nevada Soccer League, denied the charge and claimed Simon reneged on an agreement they had last year in the Cinco de Mayo celebration last year.
"We don't have discrimination for anybody," Corona said. "It's not right to question us about that. We don't do those things. We have all nationalities -- Argentines, Peruanos, Americans. You want to play, you can play."
The Northern Nevada league consists of 46 teams. Twenty percent of the 800 players are Americans, Corona said.
The Rattlers show five Mexican citizens on their roster, but Corona said they had eight of their players last year and kept only two -- Antonio Mora and Alfredo Velazquez. The problem is not with players, but with Simon, Corona said.
"Last year for the Cinco de Mayo celebration, we set up two games. We agreed we would share profits from concessions half and half. Then he (Simon) changed his mind one week before the games. He wanted to take all the money for the Rattlers.
"We don't have an owner. We're a non-profit organization.
"Now we don't want to talk to them about anything. We don't want to fight. We just don't want to have anything more to do with Mike Simon."
Corona said his league had been working with Arnold Petrolino, who was the Rattlers' business manager. "We worked very well together. After Cinco de Mayo, they laid him off."
Simon said he would like a better understanding of the entire situation.
"We need 2,000 paid per game," he said. "I'm at a loss. Maybe the area doesn't know soccer. The Hispanic people shouldn't have a
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problem. Do they know the game or do they not? That issue I don't understand. My door has always been open."
"We have a very culturally diverse team. Our lineup is made up of the best talent available. Our players are good citizens. It's a cohesive group."
The Rattlers' roster shows 13 U.S. citizens, five Mexican citizens, one German and one Jamaican.
"If we played against the best team they (the Northern Nevada Soccer League) could put together, we'd annihilate them," Simon said.
"It would be a tie," Corona countered.
The Northern Nevada league will participate in the four-day Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Nevada next Saturday with its annual competition for the Silver Cup at the Rattlers' home field, Wooster High. The featured game pits the Northern Nevada Under 23 Olympic Team against South Lake Tahoe Square Creek Resort. Pre-game activities begin at 11 a.m.
In the USISL, the Rattlers won their first two regular-season games, 1-0 over the New Mexico Chile and 2-1 against the Chico Rooks. Following a weekend road trip, they will meet the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers in Minden May 3.
Youth soccer organizations in Douglas County are expected to boost the Rattlers attendance figures for that game, but Simon is concerned about the nine remaining home games.
"Youth soccer provides the fan base for us," he said. But, he says, he is frustrated by the resistance to his efforts to bring in the Mexican community.
"I've tried to bend, tried to be flexible, be everything I can," he said. "It seems that no matter what I do, it's not going to matter. We knew after last season, it was going to be controversial. We had a 13-7 record, which should impress people.
"But there's been a lot of crying about the local issue. Why not put together an all-local team, they say. We could do that but we want to put up the most competitive team we can. It's all about winning, as far as I'm concerned. Our results will speak for themselves.
"There's a lot of politics and little stuff going on. It hurts. I'm sensitive to it. Some people say, 'Why don't you make decals, put out banners and souvenirs?' Well, I don't want to act like we're a circus.
"Right now we're a one-man show. I want to host the championship trophy at the end of the year. That's what I'm going to put my energy into. If we do well playing the game, maybe we'll cross the lines.
"Maybe people will respect our effort and our product. That's what I'm hoping for."

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