Team USA Red’s Igor Panchishak, left, and Team USA Blue’s A.J. Panas battle for ball. Freeman photo by Dave Hines.
KINGSTON, N.Y. — On a day better suited for lounging at the beach, there was soccer.
And not just any soccer. International soccer.
Despite temperatures that surpassed 90 degrees in the stands and 100 degrees on the artificial turf, organizers capped a warm week of soccer with an energetic championship on Saturday afternoon at Dietz Stadium. For the record, Ivan Kopytchak scored in the 16th minute as Team USA Blue captured its second straight International Ukrainian Football Tournament title with a 1-0 victory over Team USA Red in the grand final match. But the event was about much more than soccer.
The tournament landed in Kingston after stops in Australia (Sydney in 2005, Adelaide in 2007), Nottingham, England (2009), and Toronto (2011). The event was brought to the Hudson Valley to be near Ukrainian resorts in Ellenville, Kerhonkson and Glen Spey.
“It works like a World Cup format,” co-organizer and Team USA Blue captain A.J. Panas explained. “Facilities put in bids. You put in your bid to Sydney.”
“It was flawless. The facilities here are great. Everyone has been very accommodating.”
The week included a variety of local events to accompany the soccer. There was a Tiki welcome party last Saturday; opening ceremonies and a lunch buffet last Sunday; a Kingston-area pub crawl on Tuesday; a lunch, boat cruise and barbecue on Wednesday; and a youth game and festival on Thursday.
Two matches were played every day except Wednesday, culminating with Saturday’s third place and championship contests. All but the two matches Thursday at the Oselia CYM Ukrainian resort in Ellenville were contested at Dietz.
The men’s open tournament brought together players ranging in age from late teens to 40s — mostly from clubs along the East coast and Midwest. The teams represented the United States, Australia, Great Britain and Canada, and the players’ field experien ce ranged from college to professional. All participating players were of Ukrainian descent. Continued…
“It’s about people coming together,” Panas said. “The camaraderie is what it’s about.”
Many fans opted to watch Saturday’s finale from the shade of the embankment beyond at the East end zone of Dietz, rather than brave the sweltering conditions in the metal main grandstand.
Co-organizer and Team USA Red coach Mark Howansky said this tournament was perhaps the best they’ve had. The soccer was solid and everyone seemed to enjoy the location.
“We decided to build (the bid) around the resorts in the Catskills,” he said. “We have people from all over the world and they enjoyed the area.”
On the field, Howansky said it was nice to see a mix of players born in the U.S. and abroad come together for a common cause. Some spoke Ukrainian, while others didn’t. It didn’t matter.
“I want to congratulate my guys,” Howalsky said. “They come from different cities, different clubs. They played like brothers.”
< p>“We’re all united in soccer.”