Youssef Darbaki has stepped down after five years coaching the Prairie Seeds Academy boys’ soccer program, one of the state’s most successful and controversial.
Darbaki has taken over as coach of the inaugural men’s club soccer team at Minnesota International University, a school sharing the Prairie Seeds Academy building in Brooklyn Park. He did not coach any Prairie Seeds games this season but still works at the charter high school in a student support capacity.
Prairie Seeds, coached much of the season by Pedro Amusu, lost 2-1 to North St. Paul in the Class 2A state soccer quarterfinals Thursday night. The Lycans opted up to 2A this season after winning the Class 1A title in 2010 and taking second in 2011.
Prairie Seeds reached the 2012 tournament last fall but was disqualified after an investigation by the Minnesota State High School League found that the team used an ineligible player during the regular season. No team had been disqualified from a Minnesota state tournament since 1961.
An eligibility question also marred the school’s tournament appearance in 2011 when the age of a player was called into question. He sat out two games and was cleared to play 15 minutes before the championship game.
Darbaki insists Prairie Seeds did nothing wrong during his tenure and insisted that racism -- the team draws from the school’s large minority and immigrant populations -- was an underlying cause of fear among high school coaches.
In the wake of the league investigation, Prairie Seeds stripped Darbaki of his duties as the school’s activities director. He was replaced by former Apple Valley all-state soccer and all-state football player Jason Obarski.
The Lycans worked through a schedule pieced together by Obarski despite 50 requests for games this season that were either denied or ignored. Obarski said he is getting more reception from opposing coaches as he builds the upcoming schedule.
“I’m really proud of the character and the strength of our players to overcome a lot of adversity,” Obarski said. “We weren’t able to get a schedule of games that could test our ability like we wanted. The fact that we got to state is a testament to our kids’ character.”