The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 18, 2012

No losers in today’s all-star soccer matches

The Tribune-Democrat

— Plenty of soccer matches end in a tie, but the ones this afternoon at Trojan Stadium in Johnstown appear to be win-win contests.

Not only do the area’s top seniors get one last chance to shine, but the Santa Fund Soccer Classic also raises money for a great cause.

The event, which is in its second year, brings together the top boys and girls for all-star games – something that our region had been lacking for years.

More importantly, it helps make Christmas brighter for needy children in our area.

The games benefit The Tribune-Democrat Santa Fund, which has distributed nearly $80,000 in toys to area children over the past five years.

“It’s a great event for this great cause and it’s nice to see young people getting together to help the cause for other young people in need,” said event organizer Brian Vuletich, who came up with the idea for the games last year. “The soccer community has come together in super fashion. It’s quite exciting and it’s going to be very successful. I look forward to it being even more successful than last year.”

That would be quite a feat, as the inaugural Santa Fund Soccer Classic raised more than $10,000. Vuletich said that, if the weather is nice, he expects today’s games to raise even more money.

Vuletich, a longtime soccer supporter, has worked for months with The Tribune-Democrat and the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies in planning the games, lining up sponsors and volunteers and choosing coaches and rosters.

A number of local individuals, organizations and businesses have contributed to the games, from the referees who volunteer their time to Greater Johnstown High School, which allows Trojan Stadium to be used free of charge, to sponsors such as Sheetz and Riggs Industries.

“We would be nowhere without the support of the community,” Vuletich said.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into it.”

Tribune-Democrat Sports Editor Mike Kovak found that out. A former high school soccer player, Kovak joined the newspaper in July and was eager to help organize the charity games.

“Playing a small role in helping to organize the Santa Fund Soccer Classic has provided me with a broader knowledge of the considerable soccer talent in the area in addition to dealing with a number of coaches who have not only been eager to nominate players to help out this great cause, but offered to help in any manner possible,” Kovak said.

Nearly 70 players and a dozen coaches have been selected to take part in the game, which has quickly turned into a sought-after honor.

“People have been talking since the beginning of the season about who’s going to be selected for this all-star game,” said Vuletich, who officiates games throughout the season. “Kids would come up to me and say, ‘I really want to play in that. I hope I get nominated.’ ”

But for most it’s not just about playing in an all-star game, according to Vuletich.

“They’re excited to be a part of a great event,” he said. “Every year, it’s just going to build.”

We certainly hope so.

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