Soccer tournament brings Latino community together
By J. Chambless
Players and family members celebrate after their team advanced to the final game on Sunday afternoon.
By John Chambless
Two days of intense soccer competition under picture-perfect blue skies last weekend ended with two new champion teams, plenty of smiles, and perhaps new access to the political process for the Latino community in Kennett Square.
On Sunday afternoon, just before the championship match, Chester County attorney Jane Donze stood on the sidelines and explained how the tournament grew out of about 10 months of work. While nine teams competed last weekend, a big emphasis of the tournament was handing out voter registration packets to families who attended.
“I believe strongly that the Latino community needs to become part of the political process. In order to do that, they need to register to vote,” Donze said. “I have found that there were several very successful families that weren't registered. They perhaps felt that nobody was really going to pay attention to them. But they are a big part of our community.”
The idea for the tournament was proposed in September of last year. “It was a joint decision between me and Kurt Norcini, who has a law firm in West Chester,” Donze said. “We were able to secure some sponsors, the biggest of which is the Rebublican Party. Of course, we don't care how people register, but they were willing to help us out with the registration process.”
Norcini was at the game, and said, “We've been blessed with a lot of things this weekend – nine great teams, a great group effort, and lots of camaraderie.”
Prize money was $1,000 for the winning team and $500 for the second-place team. Funds were raised through donations, as well as from registration fees paid by the competing teams. There was a raffle for an autographed soccer ball from the Philadelphia Union, and the proceeds were given to La Communidad Hispana. Plenty of family members turned out to watch the action. Children played on a jungle gym at the Anson B. Nixon Park soccer fields and laughed as they chased each other around the fields. There were picnic foods served under the pavilion.
The event had been planned for earlier in the spring, but Donze said scheduling the teams was a struggle that resulted in the tournament being postponed until June 6 and 7. “What made a difference is that we located several key people who run soccer tournaments with these teams,” she said. The work schedules of many of the players had to be worked out so they could participate.
Roberto Lopez is a referee for a local soccer league, and was on hand last weekend to officiate. “I know many of the teams in this community, so I asked them to play,” he said. “We are hoping that next year we can have teams of younger players on one field and adults on another field.”
Justin Wyatt worked with the organizers to schedule the fields for the tournament, and he said the weekend had gone flawlessly. “Everyone did awesome job of working together,” he said. “It's a beautiful thing to watch when it all comes together like this.”
Val DiGiorgio, the chairman of the Chester County Republican Committee, was at the voter registration booth and said, “We've been trying to find ways to reach out to communities like this. It's been two years that we've been talking about doing something like this. We finally got it put together, and Kurt and Jane have gotten it done. People come to this country in search of a better way of life,” he added, “and that's very much in line with our goals as a party.”
DiGiorgio's wife, Carolina, was at the tournament on Sunday and said she was happy to help bring the event to the area. “I came to this country in the mid-'80s from Honduras when I was 5, with my brother and sister,. We were raised to love this country and to pursue educational opportunities and to give back.” she said.
Now an attorney, she works “to help other Latinos excel,” she said. “I've continued to be an advocate for the Latino community. We're not a culture that traditionally gets involved politically in the U.S. We're the lowest in voter turnout, because we're very introverted. We come to this country and stay very close-knit within ourselves.
“I hope something comes of this event,” she said, smiling. “My family has been blessed with every opportunity. We want others to make it, too. I think sometimes people just need that outstretched hand. Maybe they will reach out and take it if they know someone's there.”
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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