Fourteen teams waited out the stormy early morning weather to join the fourth annual Play for Peace soccer tournament Saturday.
The tournament, featuring 10 men’s and four women’s teams – the most since its inception – drew community members and many from across Long Island to the Patchogue-Medford Youth Soccer League Complex in Medford.
The event, benefitting the 's mission of promoting cultural awareness and assimilation was founded in 2009 after the death of Marcelo Lucero.
Paul Bressler, a friend of Lucero who worked with Rob Calarco all four year the tournament has been held, was again on hand as this year’s event kicked off under the clouds.
“We wanted to get different cultures together to show that we could all get along with each other,” Bressler said of the events goals. Each year the event has grown to include more teams and more members of the community.
Calarco was also very happy to see the event continue to grow as it has.
“Like so much of Long Island, Patchogue and Medford have seen a lot of multi-cultural growth reflected in their business communities and neighborhoods,” he said in a statement. “As an elected official who represents this area, I firmly believe Play for Peace has the potential to be a galvanizing and positive force within our changing communities.”
The men’s division saw a new entrant this year, sponsored by the . Team members were almost exclusively from the Bayport area and were quick to join to help the cause.
“I’m from Bayport and so are most of these guys and we have our own little group that goes down to play once in a while for fun,” team member Michael Amglin said. “Our friend that works with the YMCA told us about this tournament so we figured that we would put a team together and give it a shot.”
Amglin and his team, huge soccer fans, were happy to see people get to play the game they love, but they were also not strangers to charity. The same group of teammates have also gotten together to play in the Kris Kringle charity event in Bayport to help families in need during the holiday season.
“I’m just happy that a lot of people – the world cup really spurred interest for the soccer scene around here and I’m happy to see so many people playing – the charity is fantastic – and it’s a great thing and I’m happy to see everybody down here playing,” he said.
Another team, sponsored by AVOICE, a project from the BiasHelp, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to the prevention of bias crimes, had a special connection to the event.
Many of the team members had participated in the event two years ago, but a group was put together this year by Kristian Müller. The team originally came together after seeing the event advertised in a flyer.
“We knew Jeff Conroy so it just means a lot,” Müller said.
Although the championship games were cancelled because of the rain, each of the tournament's three divisions had a winner named. Team "Soccer Mafia," sponsored by and coached by Jerilyn Marinan won the women's "UNITY" division. It was the second consecutive victory for a Marinan coached team.
The men's competitive "PRIDE" division was won by team Pita House, and the men's recreational "PEACE" division was won by AVOICE.
Drawing more participants and spectators than any previous year – and with one women’s team vowing to not only come back next year but also to bring more players with them – the Play for Peace tournament looks to be going strong.