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Perfect weather, perfect day for the 68th Precinct’s Youth Council soccer season kick-off

DYKER HEIGHTS — It’s time to score some goals as the 68th Precinct Youth Council held its annual opening day ceremony for its growing soccer league on Saturday, Sept. 7 at Ben Vitale Athletic Fields, 334 Bay Eighth Street.

Hundreds of enthusiastic kids gathered on the field for the opening ceremony along with their dedicated coaches, parents and family members preparing to cheer them on.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis and City Councilmember Justin Brannan stopped by to offer words of encouragement as both signed soccer balls for the excited players.

Malliotakis said that it felt fantastic to be here for the first day of soccer. “The kids are so passionate and so dedicated, and it’s so important because they learn about teamwork and having goals,” she told this paper.

“So I’m so happy to be here to support the 68th Precinct, the coaches, parents and the kids. I wish everyone a happy and safe season,” she added.

The 68th Precinct league President Harry D’Onofrio was delighted to see so many people attend the ceremony. “This program is all about the kids and we have over 900 participating in the program,” explained D’Onofrio. “We have kids of all ages and the teams will play on our 12 fields every Saturday and Sunday between now and Thanksgiving.”

In fact, the program is so popular and participation was so high that parents were registering kids and new teams were still being formed on opening day.

“This is so cool to be here for this,” Brannan told this paper. “As a kid who grew up in the neighborhood, and now I’m the elected official from this neighborhood, it’s cool to celebrate the traditions and see them 30 or 40 years later still happening. It reminds me of what’s so special about our community, that all these volunteer-driven traditions continue on. It’s just exciting to see kids ready to get out and play soccer.”

Sixteen-year-old Panayoti Athineos, whose father Chris coaches the Gold team, summed it up perfectly when he called the event “a perfect balance of sport and community.”

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