A veteran Richmond FC elite soccer coach is facing allegations of verbally and physically abusing his teenaged players.
RCMP are investigating 55-year-old Roberto Sciascia after several parents and another coach filed complaints with the Richmond FC board about bullying, yelling, grabbing and kicking.
Sciascia has had an accomplished career in soccer, playing with top clubs in Europe such as Académica and Vittoria and, despite pressure from parents to dismiss him, the Richmond FC says it’s standing behind him.
'We want Roberto to be completely kept away from our son.' - Complaint from parents of Richmond FC player
In October, parents of one of Sciascia’s 12-year-old players said he went too far when teaching the team a defensive technique called choking the defence.
The player's father said the coach demonstrated the technique with "his hands on our child's neck and throat area in a choking manner."
CBC News is not naming the family because of the ongoing police investigation, but has spoken to coaches and players who witnessed the incident.
Parents say behaviour 'nothing close to appropriate'
"We want Roberto to be completely kept away from our son," the parents said in the complaint.
"We no longer trust him. We do not want Roberto on the field."
Another coach, Richard Vajda, who used to work alongside Sciascia, said he saw him verbally attack another group of teenage players after they lost a closely-contested match. He has also filed a complaint against him with the club's board.
"It was personal, it was bullying. It was calling them names and using profanity I won't repeat," Vajda said.
"These are 12- and 13-year-old boys. These are not men, they are not young men ... they are nowhere close to understanding what I am seeing is not right. This is nothing close to appropriate."
Soccer club investigation
After the incident in October, RCMP arrested Sciascia in early January. He was released without charges, but the investigation is ongoing.
Following the arrest, the Richmond FC suspended him and launched its own internal investigation.
But the club determined none of the players was at risk and the coach returned to the club on Feb. 2 to coach the U-16, U17 and U18 teams.
Dan Brodie, a club board member and the official spokesman for Richmond FC, says it's never appropriate to grab or touch a player in an aggressive manner.
But he also said that "soccer is a very demonstrative sport, as is hockey."
"As you go explaining different concepts, it is possible that a coach could come in contact with a player," Brodie said.
"What I find in a lot of these situations is what is positioned as one [thing] with one parent may not be corroborated with other parents."
Sciascia's supporters add the coach has a strong record of developing players and teams and won a district championship with his U-18 team last month.
“A lot of players want to be coached by Roberto,” said Brodie.
Player quits because of coach
On the other side, some parents and players believe there is no room in soccer for his style of coaching.
"His coaching style is not aligned with the club's code of conduct," said another complaint letter filed by a parent, "but this has not been adequately addressed by the Richmond Youth Soccer Association, perhaps because teams are getting good results."
John Murry, a former soccer player who trained under Sciascia for two-and-half years, claims his coach has kicked players in the back of the calves and swore at others.
"I've seen kids being targeted and humiliated in front of the entire team, me being one of them," Murry said.
"It sucks seeing that and I wish I had said something or stood up for someone that was happening with."
Murry says he quit soccer when he was 15 because of Sciascia.
"It just got to a point where why do I want to stay with an environment or stay with the club where someone was treating me poorly?"
Richmond FC said it couldn't comment specifically on players quitting because of Sciascia, but did add that it is sad to see anyone feel they no longer belong on a soccer team.
Sciascia has denied multiple requests for an interview about the accusations.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.