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Simple goals yield soccer success for Auburndale

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The goal of the Auburndale Soccer Club is simple and, according to club President Jimmy Formato, it has nothing to do with trophies or league championships. It is the same goal the club has had since its inception in 1977.

“It still is the goal of the club to keep children off the street, to keep them busy so they don’t have any time to hang out on corners,” Formato said. “If some of them go on to soccer careers, great. But our main concern is getting them off the street, getting a good education, and anything that happens in soccer is a good byproduct.”

Auburndale has had plenty of byproducts since it left St. Kevin’s in Flushing and the Catholic Youth Organization behind 26 years ago.

One of the oldest members of the Long Island Junior Soccer League, the largest soccer league in the country with nearly 100,000 members, Auburndale has grown from one travel team to anywhere between 22 to 30 clubs. Its intramural program is home to between 500 and 800 players each year.

Formato credits a dedicated group of parents for the club's success.

“Without the volunteers it cannot be done,” said Formato, who is in his 16th year with the club. “There’s not one member that can take full credit for this. It’s a collective thing from the soccer community, from the neighborhood.”

While the club’s roots are firmly entrenched in the middle-class neighborhood of Auburndale, Formato said the club’s membership crosses the Queens border and stretches into Long Island and Westchester.

“We are open-minded. We’ll take kids from anywhere, any religion, any ethnic background,” Formato said. “They will get to play, have fun and learn at the same time.”

A quick glimpse of high school rosters at Holy Cross, Archbishop Molloy and St. Francis Prep shows a large contingent of current and former Auburndale players.

Former standouts include Kevin O’Hara, who went on to play at the University of Connecticut and helped pave the way for future city players to garner Division I scholarships, including former Holy Cross greats Jimmy Buscemi and Armando Petruccelli.

“There are no words to describe the pride you have when you can go to a championship game and you don’t know who to cheer for because you have kids on both teams,” Formato said.

In recent years Auburndale has become synonymous with elite girls’ soccer, thanks in part to Barbara Barriere, one of many parents who volunteer their time to the club. Her daughter Courtney Barriere is one of several players to star at St. Francis Prep.

“We had all these girls and we said we have to start a division just for them. We started with one team and one age, and right now on the travel level we have just as many girls as we do boys,” said Formato, whose own daughter Giovanna went on to play at Queens College. “On the intramural level we have anywhere between 40 and 50 teams and half of those are girls.”

After having its highly successful intramural program spread out among fields throughout northeast Queens, the Auburndale Soccer Club, whose travel teams play home games at Fort Totten in Bayside, has returned to its recently renovated home base at 73rd Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard in Fresh Meadows, thanks in part to the work of politicians including City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

“Little by little, with the city’s acquiescence and getting money in the state budget and getting the city to invest money, we finally got to where we are today,” Padavan said at the fields’ dedication ceremony in March. “It’s been a fantastic voyage and I’m glad we’re at the end of it so that now the kids have a place to play unlike any other they’ve ever had.”

Not long after the fields’ dedication, Formato attended an intramural game and watched some young children on the side frolicking in the newly grown grass.

“That made my day because before they could never do that because there were either rocks or glass,” Formato said. “Just the fact these kids were rolling around in the grass made me feel that we almost did it.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by email at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:22 pm, October 10, 2011
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