North Bergen Police Department’s soccer team, less than two years old, is gaining momentum. Their first game against the North Plainfield Police Department took place on Saturday, July 28, although the season doesn’t officially begin until September. The game against North Plainfield Police Department was led by Patrolman David Canica.
A trophy sits at the police precinct for the team’s participation last year that found them in fourth place.
Team’s captain was its founder
“Never in the history of North Bergen has there ever been a soccer team,” said Sgt. Marco Rovelo.
Rovelo began the team while still involved with another team, Chanchos FC. The name Chancho means “pig,” which is how they affectionately refer to each other on the team. Because of his involvement with the Chanchos, it has also become Rovelo’s nickname. Since some of Rovelo’s fellow teammates are Chanchos, the name has became synonymous with North Bergen’s US Soccer Heroes, the league in which the police team competes.
“North Bergen is a very athletic town.” – Dispatcher Marie Bourbon
“Rovelo’s good; he’s able to motivate people,” said Andrea Barattin who works in records for the police department.
The rest is history
The US Soccer Heroes league started with a friendly game between Jersey City Police Department and the Jersey City Fire Department. Throughout the years, local law enforcement has added teams, allowing US Soccer Heroes to grow.
Much like the World Cup, the North Bergen soccer team has members representing different parts of the world such as Spain, Ecuador, Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, Italy and Ireland.
The team plays two seasons, outdoors and indoors. They have currently been playing for close to two years.
Each season lasts three months, and different work shifts on the police force pose a problem for practices which only occur once a month.
The team primarily plays at Caven Point in Jersey City. There was a bit of initial confusion because a permit was obtained for the new field at Braddock Park, but in order to not disrupt other activities in the park, Rovelo chose to have his team play on the old field at Bruin’s Stadium.
Devotion to ‘futbol’
Rovelo’s devotion to soccer has not wavered since he first played soccer in his adolescence. Bookkeeping Officer Karen Escobar’s love of the sport is displayed on her foot, with the word ‘Futbol’ (Spanish for soccer), the ‘O’ in the form of a soccer ball.
Although some members have previous experience playing soccer, some have never played before. Patrolman David Botwin said that this was Investigator Victor Quiero’s first year playing soccer and the experience with the team has made him one of their best defenders.
“It’s dual purpose is to get us into better shape physically and to get us into more of a camaraderie exchange,” said Rovelo. “They are truly great guys and soccer has helped us grow both individually and as a team as we learn from one another and get to know each other outside of police work.”
Some other members of the team are Detective Frank Mena and Patrolman Tommy Yfantis.
Rovelo said it has become a “morale booster for our department and as time goes by it can only get better.”
“It’s a different relationship when you go to work and you see the guys that you play with,” said Patrolman James Vangelakos.
“We’re a family,” said Tazza.
“We got chemistry really fast,” said Botwin. “Undefeated next year!”
Females are welcome
The team also includes female members, like Police Officers Saray Durango and Cynthia Vargas. The newcomers are Bookkeeping Officer Karen Escobar who was a former captain of a soccer team, Assistant Michelle Giuca and Communications Officer Monique Tazza who also played soccer.
“They’re just as good as we are,” said Botwin. “They wouldn’t play if they weren’t good.”
New opportunities have come up for some of the members. Sgt. Marco Rovelo, Patrolman James Vangelakos and Sgt. Anthony Caramucci have been chosen to go to the Netherlands for the World Police Indoor Tournament. They were chosen by Coach Alex Lalaoui, who recruits for the US Soccer Heroes.
Marie Bourbon, who has been a police dispatcher for 20 years, and Andrea Barattin in the violations bureau only recently learned of the team’s existence and have become loyal supporters.
“North Bergen is a very athletic town,” said Bourbon.
Sponsors are needed, so interested contributors should contact the Police Benevolent Association. Anyone interested can contact Jeff Jennari at 201-392-2100 or Marco Rovelo at 201-330-8207. The team needs money for uniforms and to pay the league entry fee of $300.
For further information visit www.ussoccerheroes.com for the Hudson County League, World Police Indoor Soccer Tournament, schedule and standings.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org