Futbol and philanthropy: Villa FIFA tournament draws largest crowd yet

By The Beacon | February 6, 2014 4:16am
A group of Villans (left to right) Patrick Casale, Ryan Kain, Taylor Spooner, Sky Nelson, Sawyer Reid, Connor Saben and Joel Simard focus on their games of FIFA during the fourth annual FIFA for Freedom tournament.
Photo by David DiLoreto

By Maggie Hannon |

Four years ago, a small group of Villa Maria Hall men decided to get together for a FIFA tournament in their room. Last weekend, that same tournament, since dubbed “FIFA for Freedom,” had 64 students participate and raised $800 for charity.

“It kind of started my freshman year. Me and my roommate and some buddies in our wing, we did an end-of-the-year FIFA tournament and it was only a four-person tournament back then,” senior Paul Auxier, who commissioned the annual event, said. “So then the next year, me and Nick Mancinelli, we just said ‘hey, we might as well make this a really cool event, blow it up a little bit.’”

The following year the tournament grew to 30 people, and last year it increased to around 50. This year’s event on Feb. 1 was the largest group yet.

$600 of the $800 raised will go to Athletic Club (AC) Portland, while $200 will go to the Villa Kiva account.

The tournament is set up to mirror the FIFA World Cup. Jerseys from around the world hang on walls and teams start out in groups of four, where the top two in each round advances to the knockout rounds. After that, it is single elimination until one team wins.

 “The knockout rounds get kind of intense,” Auxier said. “It’s mostly just for fun until you get to the quarter-finals, or semifinals, or the final game where you’ve got 50 people crowded around one TV.”

A draft was held on the Monday before the tournament to pick the teams that each student would play with.

 “Everyone puts his or her name into the Cup, which is the trophy. I just pick their name out and then they get pick a club like Chelsea or AC Milan,” Auxier said.

It was not until the second year of the tournament that it was made into a fundraiser for the Villa Kiva account, which is a micro-loaning nonprofit that gives loans to third world entrepreneurs. AC Portland was introduced in the tournament’s third year.

 “It takes a lot of planning, but I have a lot of friends that help out and partnering with AC Portland, they donate a lot of cool prizes. With all the prizes, we can raise money through silent auction or raffle tickets,” Auxier said.

Auxier was inspired to donate money to AC Portland through his experience as a student justice coordinator, volunteering with the organization. AC Portland is a nonprofit that empowers local students through after-school soccer programs.

 “I did some coaching and tutoring at Cesar Chavez K-8 off Portsmouth,” Auxier said. “I’ve done volunteering through AC Portland for two to three years now, it is just such a great organization.”

 Although there was steady competition throughout the tournament, the students never forgot about the charitable nature of the event.

 "I was playing against guys who are really good, but they helped me during the game. It’s a charity event so it's still for something bigger than competition," senior women’s soccer player Micaela Capelle said.

 Through spending time with other students, the tournament not only gave money to charity, but also strengthened the student community.

"It's a really cool event because the money goes to charity and we get to play video games. As a community we all get together and have a good time," freshman Peter Nguyen said.

 Whoever wins the tournament takes home a large trophy until the next tournament the following year and has their name engraved on the trophy.

“The original founders, me and Nick Mancinelli, made the final four along with Sean Norgard, and Nick Ramsey,” Auxier said in a follow-up email. “The real winners were the children of Portland.”

Although Auxier is graduating this year, he hopes the tournament continues once he is gone.

“I think Villa is built on a lot of traditions,” Auxier said. “I definitely think some underclassmen would like to take it over after I graduate.”