HUGUENOT — The famed British soccer team Manchester City stopped by St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School on Tuesday during their United States tour to host a clinic and announce their donations to a Staten Island club hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Manchester City players Samir Nasri, Edin Džeko, Gaël Clichy, Javi Garcia, Aleksandar Kolarov and Abdul Razak ran drills and coached players, ages 6 to 10, from Staten Island United in the beautiful game.
After the storm wiped out equipment used by Staten Island United in Miller Field, the UK soccer club partnered with the Carl V. Bini Memorial Fund to donate equipment for the team.
The team donated goals, nets, balls and other equipment to get the kids back on the pitch, said Sandy Rapuglia, director of coaching for Staten Island United.
“We’re tremendously honored that they’ve taken the time,” Rapuglia said. “They actually approached us to help. The level of caring that the club has shown is impressive.”
Players from the club said they were trying to help the victims any way they can, and the smiling faces on the kids let them know they succeeded.
“Some of them lost everything and that’s why we’re here just to try to help the kids in any way,” Džeko, striker for Manchester City, said. “When you see the kids smiling, playing football, we did a good job.”
Councilman Vincent Ignizio thanked the players, many who also play on their country's national teams, and said they have no idea how much it means for Staten Island that they came.
“For the many, many people who lost everything, this is a lot to them,” he said.
“So many residents that I represent here on Staten Island just need a day away from thinking about Sandy,” he said. “Today is one of those days.”
Esmim Vukovic, 6, of New Dorp, said he's a big fan of Manchester City and was excited to play with them on Tuesday. He said he learned a lot from the team and was glad they came.
“[They taught me] about dribbling past the defender, about cuts, and checks,” he said.
After the clinic, the team spent time with fans signing autographs and taking pictures before they left.
Massimo DiDonna, chairman and president of the Bini foundation, said he could tell the players genuinely enjoyed the time spent at the high school's pitch.
“You could tell that they weren’t forced to be here,” DiDonna said. “They wanted to be here.”
Before the clinic Tuesday, the owners of Manchester City announced they will be the majority owners, along with the New York Yankees, in the city's second Major League Soccer team set to debut in the 2015 season, New York City Football Club. The team will also play an exhibition match against Chelsea on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Even though more than six months has passed since the storm, many families still haven't recovered their homes. The donated equipment will give the parents less expense to worry about, DiDonna said.
“The fact that these parents are struggling to rebuild their homes and give these kids some normal kind of lifestyle,” he said.
“This gives the parents the ability to keep the money going back to their homes versus going back and donating to the organization to buy more supplies for their kids.”