Football With Real Kicks

The Riverdale Soccer club celebrated the birthday of their assistant coach, Pat Murphy, this past Sunday, and the game could not have been a better birthday gift in my opinion. Both teams played with great heart and bravado. I was invited to observe what turned out to be an exciting classic soccer match between Daly’s ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ and the ‘Manhattan Metro Stars’ at Van Cortland Park located in the West Bronx.

I can still remember the first time I told some dear friends from Aruba and Curaco, John, Joel, Armando and Reye of the DeFreitas family, I was going to a football game.  Their faces instantly lit up. They were surprised that I liked football. I was somewhat taken aback since Sundays in America during the Fall season is football season. When I mentioned to them I was going to see a Jets’ football game they immediately explained to me the Jets game was not real football. Soccer, they told me was known as football worldwide. This Sunday, I attended a soccer game and what a game it was.

“You can’t describe the passion that soccer generates,” stated coach Donald Daly of the youthful Riverdale team known as Kelly’s Heroes.  The Riverdale Soccer club celebrated the birthday of their assistant coach, Pat Murphy, this past Sunday, and the game could not have been a better birthday gift in my opinion.  Both teams played with great heart and bravado. I was invited to observe what turned out to be an exciting classic soccer match between Daly’s ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ and the ‘Manhattan Metro Stars’ at Van Cortland Park located in the West Bronx.  Both teams consist of 8 and 9-year-old boys who play on a travel team in the Westchester Youth Soccer League. Though the Metro Stars looked bigger and stronger than the Heroes they had met their match in them. With nearly 4 minutes gone in the first half, the Metro Stars found the goal and scored against Kelly Heroes’ Goalie, Richard Beverly, who took a 1-0 lead.  It appeared this would be a repeat act for most of the afternoon.

The Heroes made two serious goal attempts in the entire first half but heart, speed, guile, outstanding coaching and a good defense prevented any further scoring by the Metro Stars, although, it wasn’t from the Metro Stars lack of attempt to score goals. The Stars repeatedly came after Beverly who shunned their goal attempts by sending booming kicks back into the far depths of the field, thus allowing his talented defensive minded teammates, Paul Bergmann, Tim Daly, Omar Marte, Thomas Rynne and Harley de Lange, etc., to continue to hold down the fort. The second half of the game found the goal to be just as elusive for the Heroes as it had been in the first half including a near miss by Ben Gurka. Then in the closing minutes, and I do mean closing minutes of the second half of the game, Kelly Heroes head coach, Donald Daly, was reminded by his assistant coach, Caesar Martinez, to implement the plan. “Are we going to do it?â€? inquired Martinez of Daly, reminding the coach about their strategy and devised plan made the previous day, which as it turned out, was to pull Rich Beverly out of goal and put him on the field if necessary. And, it was necessary!  Beverly proved to be a dynamite kicker, when he came in to kick an out-of-bounds in bounds corner kick, which gave his team a shot at the goal. However, after failing to score, the Heroes went back on defense and regained possession of the ball.

I have to say this team played superbly throughout the game.  Young Beverly, one of their star players, scored the goal needed to avoid defeat and sealed a tie with only seconds left.  Those mere seconds were enough to end and tie this outstanding match and contest.  What is most remarkable is that the tie left both teams with not only the same identical records of 4-0-1, but also the exact same amount of goals scored in their first games five, 20. Make no mistake about this tie — it was a win for Kelly’s Heroes and honored the team’s namesake, 83-year-old Timothy Kelly, who watched from the sidelines with his wife Ann. The couple has been married 46 years.  Kelly, the father of two is an old Brooklyn Dodger fan. A big reason he claims he roots for the Mets.  Although, he has been battling cancer, he still makes it to the soccer games when he can.  He is the father-in-law of Daly and no finer man could lend his name to the morals that Daly seeks to instill in his team. “Tim came to the US right after WW2 and there is no finer man I know.  He is kind, intelligent, compassionate and caring.  He has the values I wish to bring to this team and so I am honored to call the team after my father-in-lawâ€? explained Daly.  Though it ended in a tie, I have to say it was a win for a team smaller in size but bigger in heart.

It was an exciting game and a win for a team that not only played great defense but were able to seize the moment when the moment presented itself.  It was a win for Kelly’s Heroes who are only able to attend practice once a week, while the Metro Stars are able to practice three times a week. And unlike Kelly’s Heroes, the Metro Stars also have professional coaching. That is why Donald Daly’s extraordinary coaching of this team of multi-cultural Heroes brought about a victory reflective of a well-oiled team this Sunday.  A team, whose team spirit reflects the virtues and fine coaching of their coach and his staff. Kelly’s Heroes is not just tops on the playing field but also has other winning agendas. Assistant coach, Pat Murphy, plans to do some scouting in Ireland as part of a special plan and incentive for these young kids.  Not only are the kids slated to travel to various countries and play ball in these countries but the idea is to expose them to other cultures.

The Soccer Club’s ten-year social agenda for the youth is a unique one. It includes college for all the boys and yearly trips to Europe and countries such as Mexico, England, Italy, Holland and Ireland; countries that are under consideration as potential sites for next year and the original homes of many of the kids and their parents. This plan also includes the parents as part of an endeavor to encourage them to take an active role and interest in the sport. Naturally, in order to achieve the goals of this ambitious plan, money is always a consideration and the team is not above donations or sponsorship by corporations or donors who wish to lend their support. One of the kids on the team, Paul Bergmann, so loves the game, he told his mother as far back as first grade, that he didn’t need to learn how to read because he planned on becoming a soccer player.  I like his style but we all know that if he can’t read he can’t play the game of life so we do encourage Paul and all the kids to keep their grades up.  Ron Beverly who is a little dynamo on the field, loves soccer and says he is a big Yankee fan, especially a fan of Alex Rodriquez.   I have to say that I admire the efforts of the school, parents, coaching staff and kids who have come together to make these teams a pleasure to watch. 

I would like to add one more thing and that is to thank Coach Donald Daly and Gys de Lange( A good friend of the late, great Miles Dewy Davis) for all their kindness and help during and after this great game.  They made the day a pleasure.  By the way, Kelly’s Heroes are entered in a Memorial weekend tournament in Scarsdale on Saturday, May 28. It is a round-robin event with 10 teams in this age category. As luck would have it, the last game of the day (at around noon) will be a rematch between Riverdale Kelly’s Heroes and the Manhattan MetroStars. Boxing Window: The Felix Trinidad vs. Winky Wright fight.  Though I liked Trinidad, Wright was no push over. As sportswriter and friend, Marion Boykin, said: “Wright is a journeyman fighter. While some guys get to eat at the big table, some others like Wright have to lick their food off the floor in the corners. Some guys run through streets of gold, while others are sent running through the fields and jungles. Those that survive it, eventually meet up with the big names in the big rings. Winky Wright is a survivor and survivors are hard to beat. Good win and yet another good story about the deeper meaning of persistence and perseverance. I remember Winky Wright when no one even looked his way, even though his record was a good as anyone else’s out there. He’s no better today than he always was, except eventually he got the opportunity, a chance at the big table and he won. The horse in the lead doesn’t always win, and the horse in the back doesn’t always lose. The morale of the story: “Just Keep Runnin.” Winky did.â€?

DID U KNOW: There are eleven members still alive from the 1955 Dodger World Championship team? Did U Know Jackie Robinson was the first ever Rookie of the Year Award winner in baseball history? DID U Know Don Newcombe (One of the living eleven) was the first pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award and the first pitcher to ever win the Cy Young and MVP Award in the same year in baseball history? Did you know the late St. Louis Cardinals owner, August Bush, offered the San Francisco Giants $1 Million dollars for Willie Mays? Did U Know Sandy Koufax was a member and rookie (and another of the living eleven) on the 1955 World Champion Dodger’s team.

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