Youth soccer players rally to save Alameda Deputy Sheriff's Athletic League club


Young soccer players held a protest along Foothill Boulevard outside the Alameda County Sheriff's Office Tuesday evening, calling for more funding after the non-profit Deputy Sheriffs' Activities League (DSAL) sent a letter this week telling them their Sheriff's Football Club for youth has been canceled. 

"Let us play. Let us play," the young people shouted, holding signs and wearing their yellow team jerseys as some cars honked horns in support.

"It's outrageous. I love this club and I want to keep playing," Zaid Mir, a Hayward 6th grader who has been with the team for two years said. "I made so many friendships from this club and I don't want it to shut down."

"I was upset that I'm not going to be able to see my friends and that long-term relationship is going to be gone," Jorge Guzman, a Hayward 6th grader said.

"I was mad because we've been playing here for a really long time," Gracie Assi, a 7th-grade soccer player said.

The program has some 250 players who are playing soccer at the highest level for free.

"This is one of the last free-to-play programs that exists in Northern California," Glenn Van Straatum, Director of Soccer with the Deputy Sheriffs Activities League, said.

He says the DSAL Sheriff's FC is putting the game within reach of youth who might not be able to afford pay-to-play prices that can amount to thousands of dollars per student. The DSAL program covers the expenses which average about $2,500 per player annually.

"We want them to dream that they can come out of here and get educated and play sports and maybe even go professional," said Oscar Escobar, technical director for the DSAL Sheriff's FC Program.

"I'd rather have my kid doing sports than being out on the streets or hanging out with the wrong crowd. He's made friends here," Carlos Ledezma, a Hayward parent said.

"It's not just soccer and teammates. It's more than that. It's made me feel comfortable and safe and I feel supported. This is like my family to me," Emiliano Rodriguez, a Hayward sophomore said.

Patrick Eisner, Executive Director of DSAL says the non-profit's funding was low at the start of the season and now has run out.

He says it was an extremely difficult decision for him and his board to decide whether to cut the soccer program or make cuts to the other programs such as dance, ju-jitsu, and recreational soccer that serve more students than the Sheriff's football club.

"This program is incredibly expensive to run. On average, it's about $650,000 a year," Eisner said. "The impact that we can make with the amount of money that it costs us to run this is really hard to justify, when we can get that same amount of funding and apply it across three or four thousand kids rather than a segment of two-hundred or two-hundred-fifty."

"It's not just a club. It's a community. It's a family. It's just heartbreaking to even fathom or think about letting go," said Ana Polanco, a parent who has a son in the club.

"They're letting down not just the athletes but the families that live here as well," Victor Meng, a parent whose son plays on the team.

"We're asking only for 6 months so the kids can finish what they start," Van Straatum said.

Two staff and three coaches will be laid off when the DSAL program ends.

Eisner said the decision to end the program in December was so that the coaches could try to find jobs when other clubs start up in January. The recreational soccer teams will continue play even though the competitive club is ending.

Parents have created a new Instagram page @savesheriffsfc to try and raise enough money to salvage the program. The coaches estimate $200,000 is needed to keep it going through May.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at or call her at 510-326-5529. Or follow her on X/Twitter @JanaKTVU.