MLK celebration irks league officials

Martin Luther King Jr. celebrates its PSAL Class A title. Photo by Denis Gostev
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It’s always something when Martin Luther King Jr. and Francis Lewis meet.

Moments after the top-seeded Knights’ thrilling, 3-2 soccer victory over No. 2 Lewis on Randall’s Island Sunday evening, MLK spent the next 10 minutes celebrating the victory. They posed with the trophy at midfield, took a victory lap and did back flips — all before shaking hands with Lewis.

Public Schools Athletic League officials had to badger MLK Coach Martin Jacobson repeatedly to get his players in line. At one point, Lewis Principal Ali Shama angrily approached Jacobson and said: “You taught your kids better than that. How long are you going to celebrate?”

With a mischievous smile, Jacobson replied, “I’ll celebrate a while after this one.” Afterward, the two spoke and seemed to iron things out. Jacobson said they are, in fact, friends and have dinner on occasion.

Lewis didn’t object as much as its principal, despite MLK eliminating the Patriots for the sixth time since Roger Sarmuksnis took over the program eight years ago.

“That’s for the officials and the principals to take care of that kind of disciplinary matter,” Sarmuksnis said.

Lewis central midfielder Danny Bedoya said he felt it wasn’t proper sportsmanship, though he did say, “We probably would have celebrated as well as they did, but not around the whole field. If they didn’t want to shake our hands right after, there is nothing we can do.”

After the trophy and medal ceremony, King again took off on a victory lap, before receiving its championship banner, further ticking off PSAL officials.

“It’s typical PSAL, wanting to go home,” Jacobson said.

Two years ago, after MLK topped Lewis 1-0 in the final, Sarmuksnis told his team: “Just remember, they cheat. They don’t play by the rules. You’re the best high school team in the city. Remember that.”

In the final seconds in 2009, Sarmuksnis began yelling at the bench of MLK (16-0-0). He said his team was the best “high school” team in the league. Then-star Sebastian Guenzatti accused Jacobson of recruiting him.

He later apologized to Jacobson. The two teams didn’t meet last year.

The two coaches shook hands before the match, Jacobson said, though before the opening kickoff, Sarmuksnis was at midfield for the customary handshake while Jacobson was not. When the two teams finally shook hands after the match, Jacobson said Sarmuksnis tightly gripped his hand.

“He has a reason to be upset,” Jacobson said. “I can empathize with him. He has a great team and they played great. I’d be upset if I never beat me in [six] tries.”

Posted 12:28 am, November 17, 2011
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