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Poles cheer on winning soccer team at Al Oerter in Flushing

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Members of the Polish community cheered and celebrated as a Polish team comprised of immigrants and those who trace their roots to the eastern European nation defeated a Jamaican team in the finals of a citywide soccer tournament Sunday at a field next to the Al Oerter Recreation Center in Flushing.

The tournament, Copa NYC, fielded 16 teams, each with a roster of 25 players — 20 who were born in the country they represented and another five others whose ancestors hail from that nation.

The Poland-Jamaica match was tied 3-3 after full and extra time. Poland won 5-3 on penalty kicks.

Members of the Poland team were handed the Copa NYC trophy by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and international soccer star Pele, a Brazilian who Bloomberg mentioned now lives in the city.

“It’s a shame somebody had to lose,” Bloomberg said before awarding the trophy to Poland. “The fact that it came down to one [penalty] kick tells you” it was a great game, he said.

Fans rooting for Poland waved their country’s white and red flag and chanted “Polska” throughout the match. The Jamaican crowd appeared more subdued, even though their team was in the game for the whole match.

As tournament organizers congratulated the Jamaican team for their second-place finish, the Polish fans showed their sportsmanship by chanting “Jamaica.”

“It’s a great tournament,” said Poland Coach Marek Kasprowicz. “It was a long ride ... and good competition. The Polish community came out and helped.”

Kasprowicz said the team was comprised of players living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of Poles, including Ridgewood and Maspeth.

Stephanie Kruczek, wife of Polish midfielder Konrad Kruczek, watched in the stands as her husband’s team was victorious.

“I’m proud of him,” she said. “I love him and I’m proud of him.”

She said her husband, a middle school teacher who emigrated from Poland as a teenager, was captain of the soccer team at Keane University in New Jersey and plays for a team in the Champions League in New Jersey called Vistula.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 6:00 pm, October 10, 2011
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