Two days after a player strike led to the cancellation of their game, and one day before their next scheduled game, LA Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and midfielder Sebastian Lletget spoke to reporters Friday about the unprecedented week.
The Galaxy, who were scheduled to host the Seattle Sounders Wednesday before players on eight additional teams in the league joined a wildcat strike initiated by the NBA and WNBA earlier in the day to protest disproportionate violence against Black people in the United States, described the events that day as fast-moving and in some ways difficult to process.
“Just talking about our soccer, we are waiting and we prepare the game to play and then it was cancelled,” said Schelotto in English when asked about the process surrounding the cancellation of the game. “Everyone knew when we were arriving to the stadium that the game was cancelled. And we didn’t feel well, because something has happened in the country, sometimes we need to stop and think about that. It’s very difficult to give my opinion. I think for us work is no good, no play, the year is coming with COVID first and then the things happening in the country, cancel the game again, so it’s just not really good, not really good it happened, but we need to be ready to do the best, not just in the soccer way, in life, the best decision that we can give everyone.”
Lletget said he had never previously spoken to rival players — in this case on the Sounders — as much right before a game, but with events moving quickly the players joined together to make a statement for racial equality.
“For us there was conversations happening, I think it all kind of started a little bit later,” Lletget explained. “Because of how the NBA announced what they were going to do and how that went about. I think it was an opportunity for the players to be united, and I think we that was our message that we’re going to stand together and if one of our brothers is hurting we have to be all together, doesn’t matter what team we play for, or what skin color we are so I think that was the message that I think every player in this league wanted to [express].”
One game on Wednesday, between Orlando City and Nashville SC, proceeded as planned. Players on those teams afterwards said they didn’t have time to coordinate a strike, being the first game of the day in MLS. Lletget acknowledged the mix-up and did not blame those players for playing.
“Obviously there was a little bit of confusion with one game in particular but, again, we know that there was a confusion there but you know maybe we can communicate better next time,” he said.
Schelotto referenced current events and said it was a time for balancing doing one’s work and balancing the needs of the day.
“You have to separate both things,” he said. “The things happening in this country and then you have to know we’re coming from the really good [win over] LAFC. We are happy for that and we are really good with the way we beat Los Angeles Football Club, but you know, something happened during the week and it’s not really nice. We need to keep working and waiting for this moment to play.”
Schelotto also noted in Spanish that as a foreigner he felt unsure about his place in criticizing American institutions, but he nonetheless supported the symbolic action by the players to shed light on systemic racism in this country.
#LAGalaxy Guillermo, "Que pase en este país o en cualquier lugar del mundo, no me gusta, no le gusta a nadie. Aveces hay que tomar determinaciones para mostrar lo que está pasando. Como extranjero es difícil dar una opinión, pero no nos gusta" #MLS @RobAbramowitz @ELROLONW— John E. Rojas (@jrojasa75) August 28, 2020
Lletget said recent months have been a time of learning for him and his teammates.
“Well I think for all of us we want to see change. I think we’re hurting. I’m a white male, as you know I’m Hispanic but to everyone else I’m white and you know we have two black players on my team and they’re hurting. They see what’s going on and one is French but still this is a global thing. And it’s not only a global pandemic that we’re going through, we’re going through global racism, and in this country in particular. It’s been a really rough time and I think a lot of people are waking up to that reality, sadly it’s been going on for too long.
“I think it’s been really tough to focus on the game. To be honest, it’s a really sensitive topic for me. I’m still learning, I have many friends who are going through a really rough time. But I’m hurting with them. I think I just try to be there for them and everyday I just try to apply myself and educate myself even more, anything I can do in particular. So I think we just got to keep everyday just doing a little bit more.”
Both Schelotto and Lletget said they expect the Galaxy to play the San Jose Earthquakes as scheduled Saturday night, but for once soccer was not forefront in the mind in a pregame press conference.
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