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ROSELAND CUP

The second annual Roseland Cup,.a free soccer tournament combining players from law enforcement with community teams, is Saturday. Games start at 9 a.m. at Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave. The final is at 5 p.m. Admission is free.:

Jack Tibbetts envisioned a community gathering based around sport at the

inaugural Roseland Cup last year but doesn’t mind admitting he was surprised when some pretty decent soccer broke out.

The idea for the free, one-day tournament was inspired by both the unrest after 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus, and the myriad community forums held in the weeks and months that followed.

Tibbetts was a part of those conversations and the idea for a day of sport mingling law enforcement, soccer fans and players, and kids seemed like a cool idea.

Alejandro Martinez thought so too.

Martinez, who played some prep soccer at Casa Grande High School, formed a team and signed on but was unsure of the level of play he might encounter.

Apparently, he needn’t have wondered.

“I wasn’t expecting such a high level of soccer,” he said.

Tibbetts wasn’t expecting it either.

“It’s really competitive,” he said. “Last year we kind of went into this more with the idea of ‘dialogue and relationship building.’ It turned out to be highly competitive.”

Proof?

The final went into penalties. A few games got chippy in a good, competitive kind of way.

Martinez, for one, is back for more. And he’s bringing more friends.

“A lot more players are willing to play after they heard what we did last year,” he said.

Winning has a way of doing that, pulling more people into the fold.

That’s OK, Tibbetts and company are making room. They are taking 11 teams this Saturday, up from eight last year. And the games will be 11 versus 11 on full fields at Elsie Allen High School rather than the eight versus eight on shortened pitches last year.

Last year there were no speeches or proclamations, just soccer and mixing it up with folks you might not know otherwise.

And Tibbetts and others are OK with letting soccer take center stage just so long as the day brings the community together.

“Our experience was really interesting because the officer that was going to play with us got injured the night before,” Luis Sanchez, who captained a team last year, said. “His hand was all wrapped in bandages. He said, ‘Guys, I’m not going to play but I’m here for you. I’ve got my jersey and I’ll cheer.’ ”

“It was a great experience,” he said.

Sanchez had such a blast he joined the growing advisory board this time around.

This year, teams will be guaranteed more than one game — a lesson learned from last year’s “one and done” tournament that eliminated squads with just one loss.

But some principle elements will remain the same.

Entry — which includes jerseys for all players — is free. Event organizers even feed players for free. There will be a separate “tournament within a tournament” for players from the Boys and Girls Club.

As it did last year, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office will field a team. Other teams will have law enforcement players sprinkled in.

Sheriff’s Office Detective Travis Koeppel already had a team of deputies who play indoor soccer. He took that group and coordinated players for last year’s cup.

ROSELAND CUP

The second annual Roseland Cup,.a free soccer tournament combining players from law enforcement with community teams, is Saturday. Games start at 9 a.m. at Elsie Allen High School, 599 Bellevue Ave. The final is at 5 p.m. Admission is free.:

Response has only grown. For the first time, there will be a full law enforcement team in addition to deputies and staff on all participating teams.

Response from participants to the deputies’ play was positive and a sporting event was a good way to bring people together, Koeppel said.

“They could tell it was a genuine effort — it’s something that might not happen on its own,” he said.

Koeppel, a guy who has played for years, said the competition was real.

“People who signed up, they wanted to win,” he said. “People want to play that way.”

But all was sportsmanlike.

“All these guys have to go to work on Monday,” he said.

And it’s not just for show. Last year, everybody mixed it up together.

That’s one of the reasons Tibbetts turned to sport to answer some of the questions he heard in all of those community forums. Sports can be an leveler — in the 89th minute, everybody is hurting. And a win feels pretty good no matter who you are or where you came from.

“I think the idea of it was for Andy and the idea was to bring cops and community people together, which I thought was nailed with the cops on the team,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day it was a soccer tournament.”

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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