WESTERLY — While World Cup soccer is taking center stage globally, there is a competitive youth soccer tournament that will be taking the local stage in Westerly this Saturday.
The second Vincenzo Nigro Memorial Soccer Tournament will take place all day Saturday at the Gingerella Sports Complex on White Rock Road. Youth soccer teams and players from Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut will participate. And it has special significance and special meaning for the Nigro family, the youth soccer program and the community.
A total of 32 competitive teams will play a minimum of three games. Girls’ and boys’ teams will compete separately at the U10, U12 and U14 levels. Playoffs will decide championships at the two older levels. Games start at 7:45 a.m. and conclude shortly after 8 p.m. Westerly will field nine teams (four girls, five boys’). Five Stonington boys’ teams will compete as will two Chariho. Teams from Coventry, East Lyme, Ledyard, Middletown, Milford, Pawtucket and Warwick also are competing.
Last year’s event was the first competitive youth soccer tourney hosted in Westerly. About the same number of teams participated, involving about 400 players, 32 sponsors and 50 volunteers.
“I think the day was awesome,” tournament committee member John Rafferty said. “I have coached Westerly soccer for over seven years and it was, by far, the high point for youth soccer in this town since I’ve been involved. As a parent and fan, watching my kids, my friends’ kids, my kids’ friends and other teams from all around the region playing in our town, on our fields, was tremendous. And for a great and meaningful cause. It was the best of youth sports ….. This tournament has a soul.”
The soul of the tournament is its namesake, Vincenzo Nigro, who at age 68 was killed by a drunken driver in 2011. The long-time Westerly resident and George C. Moore Co. worker was the father of two daughters (Linda Keegan and Diana Zerbarini) who set up a foundation and helped organize the tournament in his memory.
“We started the tournament as a way to memorialize my dad,” Keegan said. “I just remember how much joy my dad had to see his grandchildren play soccer. It makes tournament day so special. It’s like he’s with us the whole day.”
Keegan is the foundation president and tournament director. The tournament committee includes Zebarini, Vinny Flood, Patti Gladski, Mike Imbriglio, Karin Ogle, and John and Karen Rafferty. The competitive program of the Westerly Youth Soccer Association also supports the tourney. Team registration fees, corporate sponsors and private donations are dispensed by the foundation board. Keegan said a total of $6,400 was raised last year.
Among other things, the foundation donated $3,200 and four sets of soccer goals to the WYSA, awarded a $1,000 scholarship to a Westerly High graduate (Stephanie Brennan), contributed to an alcohol-free all-night graduation party and arranged an educational seminar for middle school students.