I never met Tony Graziano, but I played and won his Memorial Tournament yesterday at Red Bug Park. Tony died five years ago, and while living played pick up soccer at Red Bug. He apparently made quite an impression on those he played with, many of whom arrived in Orlando from other states and countries to find with Tony and others a place to play soccer and build friendships.
A few months back, I began playing regularly with a group largely composed of West Indians. I was welcomed much as I suppose Tony Graziano would have welcomed me had I shown up during his playing days. It was in this spirit of camaraderie that his Tournament was played.
I was invited to play by my Jamaican friend Paul, and donned the Jamaican National colors, while Paul noted our inflated roster and added himself to the roster of our first opponents. I started the game on the bench and came on midway through the first half with the score tied at one. I played right midfield and we snatched the lead with a goal in the final minute. In the second half I played right back and had a solid showing. After building our lead to 3-1, I went out of the game. We win 5-1.
Our team did not have a keeper so I volunteered for the second game. I kept a clean sheet thanks in large part to some terrific defending in front of me. We won 4-0. Our prospective opponents in the final left to hit the bar, and we were declared champions.
We lingered for a while amid the trophy celebrations in our uniforms and sweat hoping to extend our time as players and just as much as teammates unsure as Tony’s time just how many more days we may have like this.