AIRPORT PARK — When Rolando Marchis saw images of tornados ripping through communities across the Midwest recently, he couldn’t help but wonder what could be done to help the victims of such devastation.
Marchis went with what he knows and quickly organized a charity soccer match featuring his Santa Monica Sporting FC and went about the task of finding people to draw into the effort.
He made calls to friends in the Westside soccer community and found a taker in Nicky Holender, a regular on the local scene and trainer to some of the best players in the world. Marchis successfully convinced his friend and fellow soccer lover to take part and landed what appears to be the highlight of the charity game scheduled for Saturday at Airport Park.
Holender, quick to agree, told Marchis that he had a group of English Premiere League players coming to town to train and would work at convincing his clients to take the field for a good cause. He was able to talk them into it, but with one caveat: their names can’t be used out of fear that their teams back in England would frown on their decisions due to insurance issues.
“[The EPL teams] don’t like them playing on an artificial field,” Holender said. “But, they will play a little bit, show their faces.”
With their identities hushed, Marchis had a great way to market the event to the public and hopefully draw a decent crowd.
In addition to the commitment from the EPL players, Marchis went about trying to lineup other soccer stalwarts and called a list of friends associated with the U.S. National Team. He was ultimately able to secure former national player Joe Max Moore as a special guest for the event.
“We wanted to represent soccer positively,” said Marchis, a longtime Santa Monica resident whose father introduced AYSO soccer to the city. “We thought, ‘how can we be a good example for the community’ and decided that a charity game was the best idea.”
The game itself will serve two purposes. First, it would have to be a fundraiser for tornado victims, but secondly, also serve as a platform to promote Santa Monica Sporting FC, an all-star team of sorts made up from the more than 2,000 players who take part in the Santa Monica Adult Soccer League.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to present such an exciting event for the Santa Monica soccer community,” said Mike Hawkins, vice president of SM Sporting FC. “Not only will it be an honor for our players to play with and against some of the game’s great players, current and past, but we look forward to bringing the Santa Monica community together to benefit the people affected by the recent devastation in the Midwest by the tornadoes.”
While there is no fundraising goal set, Marchis said he hopes to donate the game’s proceeds to the Red Cross.