Above, (front row, l-r): Mia and Neve Harrington; second row, l-r: Jonathan Cardoso (assistant), Carlos Andrade, Philip Chomicki, Luke Harrington, Aron Bernardez, Helder Batista, Mauro Barbosa, Alden Rosa, Rivaldo Miranda, Richardson Valbrun; back row, l-r: Coach Kieran Harrington, Jeffrey Monteiro, Heroldens Limage, Roberto Broxton, Malcom Peterkin, Denislon Goncalves, Emmett Smith, Felipe Cifuentas and Coach Tony Cardoso.
Three Dorchester Youth Soccer Club’s Boys Travel Teams recently qualified to represent Boston Area Youth Soccer (BAYS) in the Massachusetts Tournament of Champions (MTOC). Last Sunday, the U14 team won its final match and was awarded a gold medal, while the U16 and U18 were each awarded silver medals in their divisions.
Kiernan Harrington, coach of the U14 boys and a Lower Mills resident, said this is the second time in three years that a team he has coached has come out on top.
Originally from Blarney, Ireland, Harrington has been coaching travel soccer in Dorchester for almost five years. Though there were a lot of new faces this year, Harrington attributes the team’s success to the tight bond the older members formed with the newer members, calling the team a ‘family.’
“It’s a team in every sense of the word,” Harrington said. “We really stress that throughout the season that it’s a team. We’re not going to win it with one or two players. Everybody has to contribute, everybody has to practice, everybody has to give 100 percent when they’re out there.”
In order to qualify for the playoffs, the team had to win its last five games of the season. After winning four of the games and tying one game, the U14 boys were accepted into the playoffs as a wildcard team.
“We came the hard way into this tournament,” Harrington said. “These kids play at a high level. They should be very proud of what they did, and I hope they are proud of what they did.”
More than 2,600 players comprising 176 teams from all over Massachusetts participated in this year’s tournament, and Harrington said many of the U14 boys felt the other teams did not take them seriously enough. The team is comprised of boys as young as 12, one of whom Harrington appointed as a captain for his hard work and because “he gets respect and he gives respect,” Harrington said.
“They really wanted to win this tournament,” Harrington said. “They wanted to prove that [having team members] aged 12 was not a fluke.”
Harrington said what made his team unique from the others was its determination to win, and he could not be happier with the team’s success. He said the team was ecstatic to win the tournament in the end.
“It’s fun when you see the kids at the end of the tournament and they’re still wearing their medal around their neck with their gear on, sitting down drinking a bottle of water, relaxing and eating a hamburger or whatever,” Harrington said, “but they’re still very proud of their medal.”
Emmanuel Bikibo, coach of both the U16 and U18 teams said he was also very proud of his teams’ accomplishments. The U16 team was also awarded a “Sportsmanship” award, which is given to a team for its excellent behavior on the field and that of the coach on the sidelines.
As a resident of Ashmont Hill, Bikibo said he has known the members of his teams since they were very young. The team members grew up together and have a strong bond both on and off the field. He said what makes his teams unique is they represent about 16 or 17 different countries and nationalities.
They’re a smorgasbord of cultures, and they tend to get along very well,” Bikibo said. “That’s what my teams look like. They look like Dorchester.”
Bikibo, who hails from Nigeria originally, said he has been coaching travel soccer for over 15 years. He said over the years, his teams have gone from being considered as an instant win in the tournament to serious competition for the other teams. He said he is not surprised at the teams’ successes in the tournament this year.
“We used to be the laughing stock of the league because every time we came into any town we [were] automatically checked off as a win because everybody thought Dorchester was a basketball and football town,” Bikibo said. “We’ve turned that around.”
Both Bikibo and Harrington prepared their teams for the tournament like they would for any other regular season game: practicing once or twice a week. Bikibo and Harrington both said they and other players’ parents often picked up those team members whose parents do not have the means to bring their children to practice.
“We’ll pick them up, each individual, take them home, and we’ll feed them on their way,” Bikibo said. “Sometimes they’ll come in and tell us they haven’t eaten.”
Both Bikibo and Harrington expressed hope that their talented players would keep playing soccer even past high school. Bikibo said some of his players have even gotten scholarships to play soccer in college.
“Some of them have made this their careers,” Bikibo said. “That’s the main goal is to keep them out of harm’s way.”
Maura Doyle, the Dorchester Youth Travel Soccer director and registrar, said she was very excited about the achievements of all three teams this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the incredible hard work and sportsmanship that all three teams displayed throughout the tournament,” Doyle said. “They represent everything that is fabulous about the youth of Dorchester.”
Doyle added that Dorchester’s U11 travel team came out of the regular season with an unblemished 8-0 record, but lost in the Presidents Cup finals. She commended the U11 team for its great character and sportsmanship as well as its success throughout the season.