Marc Maturo’s official sports column
Young, old and in between, these players are having a ball
As the tumultuous World Cup soccer tournament reaches the Round of 16, the most popular world-wide sport continues to make giant inroads among youth leagues throughout the states. Youth soccer, by most accounts, is gaining more players than in any other sport.
But youth is not always reserved for the young. There are numerous adult soccer leagues that are thriving, too, right here in Rockland County in Haverstraw, Spring Valley and Clarkstown, just for example, not to mention nearby New Jersey. These leagues, in which most if not all play simply for fun and some an insatiable will to win, attract former collegiate standouts such as 25-year-old lad Sean Russell of New City, but also feature such diehards as 41-year-old landscape businessman Cain Mazariego of Blauvelt to 60-something legends Joe Moger of Congers and David Hoshia of Airmont.
“I just hope to can last as long as those guys, yeah, if my muscles and joints hold up,” offered Russell, who competes each Sunday with El Roble at Haverstraw Middle School following an illustrious career with the Jaspers of Manhattan College.
Russell started his career playing with Ramapo Valley Soccer Club, of which his dad, Glyn, an amateur player in England, was a former president. Russell the Younger also played two years with a men’s semi-pro team in Clarkstown, and hopes to continue playing when he resumes his travels overseas.
“I went to Turkey and tried to play pro, but now I’m just playing for fun,” said Russell. “It just didn’t work out, and it was kind of disappointing, but it was just amazing to try out. I still love it; I still love to play. I’m self-employed and eventually want to travel and play in foreign countries where I can. My best friend in high school, who did score the winning goal (in state championship game), Kyle Hoffer, is playing in the USL with the Rochester Rhinos.”
Hoffer’s goal, by the way, which lifted Albertus Magnus HS to the title, was assisted by Russell,
Russell noted he also used to play indoor soccer, “with old guys like Joe (Moger),” in Bardonia.
“They’re good,” says Russell, in due deference to his many elders. “They’re smart players, know how to move the ball. They have so much experience, especially Joe, he’s a great guy.”
Long-time Rockland Community College coach Loren Green, who starred at Nyack HS and then in college at Morrisville Agriculture and Technical, also lauded Moger’s play and longevity, but added, with a hint of laughter, “But Joe — he wants to win every game he plays, but it’s all in fun.”
Green, not surprisingly, is also very much interested in the World Cup.
“You know, I was born in Costa Rica and I’m happy they’re doing well,” adds Green, “but I’ve always loved the Brazilian way of soccer; I’m rooting for them.”
Green gave up the game as a player 12 years ago. “I was 50, though,” counters Green, obviously proud of his tenure at left wing. “My knee just gave out. I had ACL surgery when younger and it was getting bad. I was good and loved the game very much. We all love the game, but it seems today, even some of the clubs today, it’s all about the money. That’s why you play for fun other than trying to beat somebody else.
Mazariego, the landscaper, who competes with Alayilla in Haverstraw, doesn’t envision himself playing for more than a few more years, having already made one concession to advancing age.
“I was once a forward, but now I’m at midfield. I’m too slow now,” said Mazariego, with a hearty burst of laughter. “I think I can play a few more years, and then maybe coach. I’m the oldest (on my team), but don’t look too old and keep myself in shape.”
Mazariego admits, however, that it gets tougher to keep up with “the kids.” As for anyone playing into their 60’s — with all due apologies to Moger and Hoshia — he said, “You know, nobody can really play at that age. I don’t see me going past 45, although there is another guy in Spring Valley who is 48 and is really good!”
Some players, it seems, like wine, maybe, just maybe, get better with age.
(Ed note: Amateur soccer fans have two upcoming feasts, of sorts, at the German Masonic Grounds in Tappan. A series of multiple games are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 29, with another round of contests scheduled all-day on July 4. Mazariego invites one and all to enjoy the play of youngsters and old-timers alike.)
RIDE TO GIVE: Dave Nazaroff of Nyack, who founded Ride to Give with Kaete Nazaroff 11 years ago, will repeat his solo journey from Nyack to Gainesville, Calif, in July to deliver a special check to a special family. Ride to Give, a not-for profit 501(c)3 children’s fundraising charity, has chosen the Truelove family of Gainesville as recipient of the 2nd annual bike trek. Ten-time Ironman Dave Nazaroff will ride to help the deserving family of 10-year old Callie Truelove, who was born with a heart condition. Dave’s delivery will punctuate the benefits of a massive fundraising campaign which will take place over the next five weeks. Last year, RTG raised nearly $200,000 for the family of Tripp Halstead, a toddler outside of Atlanta with a traumatic brain injury. On the first “Ride to Give,” Dave was followed by a support crew of three as he cycled from NY to GA to deliver the donated funds. Ride to Give has since gone on to raise an additional $525,000 for 30 other children in the past year. Please visit www.ridetogive.com to make your tax-deductible donation.
PLAY BALL: For a college baseball player, summer is not merely a time for fun and sun, but a time to hone their game and stay in condition for the fall campaign.
Consider John Kukura of New City, a Clarkstown South alum who recently concluded a fine freshman season for the Setters of Pace University in Pleasantville.
“Coach told us we should play at least 40 games and get 120 at-bats, to stay in baseball shape for the fall,” said Kukura, who is getting in his summer swings with the Rockland Cavaliers in the Westchester Rockland Wood Bat League, playing home games at Germonds Field in Clarkstown and at Clarkstown South HS.
The versatile Kukura, who observes that the college game is quicker, with better pitching, “baseball the way it should be played,” was a veritable man of all positions at Pace.
“I played third base, second, first, all the outfield positions, everywhere but pitcher, catcher and shortstop,” he said. “I enjoyed it all, love the atmosphere. Anytime you can play baseball, I love it.”
The WRWBL season concludes at the end of July, with playoffs the first week of August.
“It’s fun baseball,” noted Kukura. “The team’s good, we got off to a good start but you know how it is in baseball, any team can beat any other team. I’m playing good, feel good, and looking forward to September. I go backSeptember 1 and if it’s like last year, we’ll have two weeks to settle in before pracitce starts.”
SOUTH DEFEATED: St. Joseph’s Regional HS linebacker C.J. Fitzpatrick of Pearl River and the South squad were upended by their North contemporaries, 10-7, in the annual Bergen County All-Star Football Classic at Overpeck Park in Palisades Park, N.J. Fitzpatrick, who is bound for the University of New Haven on a full scholarship, was also a standout in track and field and basketball for the Green Knights. Last season, Fitzpatrick capped his scholastic career with an 82-yard interception return for a touchdown at Met Life Stadium in the state championship game against Pope John XXIII.
QUICK HITTER: Mercy College men’s soccer player Chuong Tran of West Nyack and Arthur Accardi of Valley Cottage, in men’s lacrosse, were named to the spring 2014 athletic director’s honor roll.