Irondequoit-Poltava Soccer Exchange Tournament celebrates Ukraine's independence

IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. - The first annual Irondequoit-Poltava Sister Cities Soccer Exchange Tournament was held on July 13-27. Organized by Irondequoit-Poltava Sister Cities Committee Chairperson Tamara Denysenko, International Sister Cities Council of Irondequoit president Bill Bastuk and the Irondequoit Soccer Club's Matt Lane, the tournament was held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence, the 10th anniversary of the Irondequoit-Poltava Sister Cities partnership and the 100th anniversary of the first Ukrainian immigrant's arrival in Rochester, N.Y.

Thirteen young soccer players, age 12-16 - Mykyta Nestorov, Yurij Momot, Ruslan Kvach, Yuriy Bukatov, Yevgeniy Demchenko, Anton Brechko, Oleksandr Savchenko, Yevgeniy Krytskyy, Dmytro Tsevukh, Dmytro Shvetsov, Maksym Kulbako, Mykhaylo Pryadko, Maksym Gorzhiy - represented the Football Club Alpha of Poltava. The club numbers around 120 players and just recently took the championship in the Ukrainian Youth Tournament in the 16-and-under age bracket, where over 100 teams competed for the national championship.

Coached by Vasyl Karmalyk for the past four seasons, the visiting Ukrainians had an incredible record of 25 wins, one tie and only four losses in their last 30 games in Ukraine. The 51-year-old coach is no stranger in developing young talent for Ukraine's top teams, and just recently one of his young players was selected to the National Team.

The team boasts two of the best young players in Ukraine. Forward Yuriy Bukatov, a 15-year-old scoring sensation, has netted 22 goals so far this year. Teammate Dmytro Shvetsov, Ukraine's top young goaltender, has allowed only nine goals in 30 games. Another standout in the Ukrainian contingent is halfback Evhen Demchenko. All three players have been tabbed as top prospects for the Ukrainian National Team program.

In addition to three official games with the Irondequoit Club, (results: 1-2-0), the young Ukrainians played two other top local traveling teams from Pittsford and Penfield. On the initiative of Wasyl Kornylo, a new greater Monroe County Ukrainian American youth soccer team was organized to play against the Poltava team.

During a two-week whirlwind stay in greater Rochester, the Poltava team attended services at local Ukrainian churches. The young athletes toured Irondequoit Town and Monroe County government offices, where the team was recognized with official proclamations by Irondequoit Town Supervisor David Schantz, Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle and, on behalf of the Monroe County Legislature, by Stephanie Aldersley.

Extensive tours of town police and public safety facilities, and attendance at town court proceedings made a great impression on the young soccer stars. Visits to local beaches, parks, recreational facilities and a zoo were organized for both the Irondequoit and Poltava youths to develop and strengthen camaraderie between the teams. Both groups toured Niagara Falls and the Genesee Country Museum at Mumford to learn about 18th and 19th century New York state and how it compares to historic Poltava.

The Soccer Exchange Tournament was made possible through the support of New York State Sen. James Alesi and community donations. On a personal level it was made a great success thanks to dedicated host families: Walter and Tamara Denysenko, Bill and Therese Bastuk, Wasyl and Anne Kornylo, Mykola and Lydia Nechipurenko and their son Victor, Carl and Cathy Aquilina, Richard and Ellen Cookinham, Dan and Sheila O'Brien, Joe and Irene Scoglio.

Organizational, logistical and public relations services were volunteered by residents of Irondequoit and members of the local Ukrainian American community, and especially by Bohdan Cholach and his daughter Larissa, Lydia Dzus, Alex Loj, Walter Sukhenko and Natalia Shulga.

The success of this first soccer exchange established the foundation for a tournament in Poltava in the summer of 2002. Participating in the event will be members of Irondequoit Soccer Club Inc., Town of Irondequoit officials, Irondequoit Sister Cities members, as well as a youth soccer team from Pescara, Irondequoit's sister city in Italy.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 9, 2001, No. 36, Vol. LXIX

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