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Women’s Soccer Alumnae Continue the Fight for Justice

Oct 16, 2020
Source: Oakland Roots SC

In recent months, current Cal student-athletes have stood together against racial inequality and injustice, but this fight does not stop here. It continues with the local community and beyond. 

This past weekend, the Oakland Roots Soccer Club hosted the first-ever "Justice Match" aimed to advance the discussion of racial justice and gender equality. The match featured teams with a mix of current Oakland Roots players along with local women's professional players and ambassadors - many of whom also happened to be Golden Bears. 

The players were divided into two teams, including Team Dania, coached and captained by Cal alum Dania Cabello. Other former Bears who participated included Alexis Kleinhans, Kassie Gray, Taylor Comeau, Jennifer Thomas, Sam Witteman, Gina Woodward and Savannah McMann. 

Front: Dania Cabello, Sam Witteman, Jennifer Thomas; Back: Lorna Brownlie, Alexis Kleinhans, Kassie Gray, Taylor Comeau, Gina Woodward

However, the push for justice is not easy, just like the planning of this event. Originally scheduled for Aug. 29, the match was rescheduled to Oct. 9 due to poor air quality from the Northern California fires. The Oakland Roots organization also faced strict protocols from Oakland Public Health in order to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We had to present our safety plan to health officials prior to the event and limit capacity to 10 percent of what the facility is usually allowed to hold," said Oakland Roots' Communication Director Tommy Hodul. "Additionally, everyone was tested for COVID prior to the event and all who were not playing had masks on the entire time, while not being closer than six feet from anyone else working." 

Despite the challenges in putting the event together, the match proved to be a success for both the players and the community. The event raised over $50,000 for the Justice Fund, which will be used to continue to promote racial and gender justice in the Bay Area. For the former Cal athletes that participated, there was an even bigger gain. 

Cabello said she believed that the game was a "healing" moment for the athletes, themselves. It was healing for those who experienced injustices in their lives.

Current Cal women's soccer volunteer coach Lorna Brownlie also participated in the match. "As someone who is in a traditionally underrepresented community, I found this opportunity both necessary and valuable for myself to participate in," she said. "It truly takes all of us, together, in the relentless pursuit for social justice." 

Added alum Sam Witteman: "Everyone was playing for something greater than themselves. I love how the sport can bring so many people together, put things into perspective and show us the importance of our role to make a difference."

Cal Alumna and team captain, Dania Cabello. Source: Oakland Roots SC

Perhaps what made it better for these alums was seeing fellow Golden Bears fill up nearly half the roster for this game. "There was always something present at Berkeley where giving back to the community provided a lot to learn and gain," Cabello said. "Sometimes, I gained way more [personally] from engaging with the community."

The match ended in a 4-4 draw, which in a way, reflects their efforts for equality. In the end, this game was not about the competition or team results, but about the impact on the community. On the overall takeaways from this event, Cabello added, "The intention was so much bigger than who wins or loses. If we can learn to play differently, we can learn how to choose differently in our actions."