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April 4, 2013

Soccer players asked to ‘kick’ poverty at Charity Cup

Participants, spectators support cause at Pontiac event April 26-27

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Soccer players asked to ‘kick’ poverty at Charity Cup
Signing up to play in the Charity Cup Soccer Tournament, or simply paying the suggested $5 donation to watch, helps support causes battling poverty around the world. Now in its 15th year, the international event is growing to become a sort of World Cup for amateur players.

METRO DETROIT — What began as a local initiative to support a small orphanage in Romania 15 years ago is now on its way to becoming the biggest nonprofit amateur soccer tournament in the world, benefitting numerous groups that help the needy.

The Charity Cup Soccer Tournament was co-founded by businessman Dan Bora, one of the owners of the Biggby Coffee in Madison Heights. He serves as president of the annual event that now spans games across North America, Romania and Austria.

“I think that, for a lot of amateurs that play soccer, this is their version of the World Cup — one with a good cause,” Bora said.

In this year’s Charity Cup, the Detroit Regional Tournament will be held at Ultimate Soccer Arena, 867 South Blvd. in Pontiac, from 1-9 p.m. April 26 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 27.

Men can have up to 12 people per team, for eight-on-eight matches. Women can have up to 10 people on the roster, for six-on-six matches. The registration fee is $750 for a men’s team and $300 for a woman’s team. The cost difference is to encourage more women to participate.

The registration deadline is April 19. The registration fees go toward the cause. So does the suggested $5 donation asked of spectators. Children ages 12 and younger get in free.

Among the teams participating are groups from Chicago, Ohio and Canada. Started in the metro Detroit area in 1997, the Charity Cup now has tournaments not only in Detroit, but also in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Portland in the U.S.; Arad, Cluj Napoca, Galati and Iasi in Romania; and Linz in Austria.

Originally, the Charity Cup was organized to support a halfway house for runaway kids in Bora’s home county of Romania. Five teams played in the original tournament. Then the next year, it grew to nine teams, and the year after, to 12 teams.

From there, the Charity Cup expanded to the West Coast and the Deep South, with 36 teams after several years.

“We realized, wow, this could be something long-term,” Bora said.

And it continues to grow; now they’re at 150 teams around the world.

“I think, in the future, we’re going to make a system where teams qualify to play here (in Detroit), since we won’t have enough time for all of the teams that come,” said John Apostu, the event director.

Since 2001, funds raised by the Charity Cup have supported Christian missionary work that improves quality of life for those in poverty-stricken areas, starting in the Republic of Moldova and Romania, and spreading to Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and the U.S.

Their volunteers operate such projects as Medical & Dental Clinique, Orphans 360, Girls of God, Navobi Sports Club and Children of Light.

“I think there’s something beautiful about a ball uniting people of all nations and all kinds of statuses,” Bora said. “I’ve seen poorer people playing with a ball that’s falling apart, in the same fashion as a more well-to-do person playing with a fancier ball.

“I think there’s something beautiful in that — that this sport can connect all these communities together … and people can use a passion and a skill they have to help someone else out in the world or their community, simply by playing.”

Apostu agreed.

“I used to play with a soccer club, and I think a lot of the guys playing here also did the same thing, and they miss the fun behind the game,” Apostu said. “Also, I’ve been on the mission trips and I’ve seen exactly what happens with the money. I see people benefitting from it, and I realize this is a way to make a bigger impact in the world.

“I think, a lot of times, we talk about changing the world, and we think of some grand ideas, but it’s so easy to make the change when you do the things you love with that perspective in mind.”

The Charity Cup Detroit Regional Tournament will be held at Ultimate Soccer Arena, 867 South Blvd. in Pontiac, from 1-9 p.m. Friday, April 26, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27. For men, a team can have 12 people for eight-on-eight; for women, a team can have 10 people for six-on-six. The registration fee is $750 for men, and $300 for women. The registration deadline is Friday, April 19.

A suggested $5 donation is asked of spectators, while children ages 12 and younger get in free. For more information, call (248) 342-3244 or email league@charitycup.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.