Pele Reaches Another Generation in Sachem
May 19, 2014 | by Ken Ilchuk
So, how many 8-year olds would you say actually know who Pele is? My guess would be zero. But there is at least one – Vincent Chiofalo of the Sachem Youth Soccer League.
Much credit goes to Vincent’s dad, Tony, who grew up a big soccer fan himself, and showed his son a documentary about the original Cosmos. It was loaded with facts about Pele and his teammates who changed the face of soccer in America. Weeks later, when it was time to write a book report for school on a famous person, Vincent chose Pele and handed in his paper in early March. But that is just the beginning of this incredible story.
“Vincent and I were at the LIJSL Convention in March and we saw a sign for a contest at Hofstra University’s booth,” Tony explained. “It was a drawing for a free clinic for a youth team on the field at Hofstra with the Cosmos prior to their home opener in April. Vincent asked if we could enter and I said, ‘Sure.’”
A few weeks later, Tony got a call saying that another team had dropped out and the Cosmos needed a replacement. Vincent’s U9 Sachem Fireballs were in! Tony told Sachem club president Brian DeMurley about the good news and mentioned the Pele book report. Brian knew that Pele would be at Hofstra that day as part of a weekend-long conference on soccer and wondered if there might be an opportunity to get Pele to sign the report. He asked Tony to send him a picture of the report.
“Brian, I found out, spoke to everyone,” Tony explained. “He spoke to the people at Hofstra who were running the conference, he spoke to people at the Cosmos, he spoke to everybody. There were no guarantees, but he told me to make sure that we brought the book report with us to the clinic and see what happens.”
Vincent had a great time at the clinic. At the end of the event, Vincent, his teammates, and the other participants made their way into the stands where they would watch the game.
“Just as we got into the stands, I heard a commotion behind us,” said Tony. “There was Pele sitting in a golf cart, shaking hands and signing autographs for some people who were still making their way off the field. We went back down to the gate, and I explained the situation to the security guard, but he said he was not allowed to let anyone back on the field. So that was it, we didn’t meet him.”
Vincent was obviously disappointed, but Tony explained to him that sometimes things don’t work out, and that he would learn from the experience. He then called DeMurley to let him know it wasn’t going to happen. But that wouldn’t be their last conversation that afternoon.
“A little while later, my phone rings and it’s Brian,” Tony said. “He said, ‘how far away are you,’ and ‘how quickly can you get to the front of the stadium?’”
DeMurley was at Hofstra as a guest of the LIJSL, who had arranged for a private reception with Pele for the league’s club presidents as a thank you for all their efforts during the year. When he heard that Vincent had just missed out on meeting Pele, he decided to give his one guest pass to Vincent.
“I grabbed Vincent and started walking as fast as we could,” said Tony. “We had gone to our seats, almost on the other side of the stadium. We had to walk back across, go out of the stadium, and then into a building in front of the stadium, but we got there and met Brian.”
DeMurley only had one pass, so Tony couldn’t go into the reception, but Vincent could. They went upstairs where Brian worked his way through the crowd until he was able to get Vincent in front of Pele, where they were finally able to meet, and Pele was able to sign the book report.
“When Vincent came out, he was holding the signed report and was beaming,” Tony said. “He was so happy. It was really a great day!”
So how many 8-year olds would you say have actually met Pele? My guess would be thousands. But thanks to the efforts of his dad and Brian DeMurley, there is one very lucky one in particular – Vincent Chiofalo of the Sachem Youth Soccer League.
The Chiofalo family actually has a long running history with the SYSL dating back to Tony’s father. The club has named its’ annual recreational tournament in his name and this year the 4th annual Tony Chiofalo Memorial Charity Festival will take place at the SYSL Fields in Holtsville on June 14th in his honor. This year's event will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), with free bracelets for a day at Adventureland on Route 110, provided by Adventureland. The players get two days of fun for the price of one, and in the process, help support a great cause!