BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo’s soccer community is leading the latest local effort to help the people of Ukraine. Teams from across Western New York participated in the “Blue and Gold Games” to raise money for overseas relief.
Buffalo District Soccer League (BDSL) partnered with FC Buffalo and the Ukrainian Holy Trinity Orthodox Church to put on the event at D’Youville University’s Dobson Field.
“This event today is partially for Ukraine FC. They’ve been in the league a long time and are a great partner of ours,” BDSL President Michael Schieber said. “Whatever we can do to assist them in supporting the efforts here today is something we definitely wanted to be a part of.”
Several teams from the soccer league played exhibition matches and team registration fees, tickets and food sales will go toward the Ukrainian Holy Trinity Orthodox Church. Volunteers say the church uses the money to purchase supplies and send packages overseas to Ukrainian communities in need.
Soccer is a sport played worldwide, but at this event, it was about more than what happened on the pitch. It was about celebrating culture through the beautiful game.
“Soccer is definitely a sport that transcends all different types of cultures and peoples,” Schieber said.
For members of the local Ukrainian community, they say the event allowed them to teach others about their culture in order to pass it down to the next generation.
“People are hearing about Ukraine all the time on the news. it’s constant. Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine. We came here to show our culture,” Iryna Pron, volunteer with the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, added.
Players from Ukraine F.C., a member club in BDSL, say soccer is such an important part of their culture. One member says he feels Russia is trying to take Ukraine’s culture away through this war.
“Throughout Ukrainian history, Russification is a really real thing,” Ostap Tkalich, Ukraine F.C. manager, said. “It’s important for us to be speaking Ukrainian, educating others about correct pronunciation and our culture.”
Alongside various soccer games, volunteers with the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church sold homemade food items, including 1,800 pierogis, crepes, borscht, and baked goods.
Soccer served as the backdrop to a showcase of culture and solidarity, which is something that many hope to pass down to future generations.
“With my husband, I have two daughters and it’s important to show them so they can pass it along to the next generations,” Pron added.
While the teams were competing against one another, many players and fans alike were just grateful to be together for an important cause.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.