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Soccer tournament in Riverhead raises more than $13.5K for fire victims

The white, No. 8 soccer jersey of Carlos Cífrelo Penate Rivera hung from a pole at the corner of a field at Stotzky Park in Riverhead Sunday.

Only a week earlier, Mr. Penate Rivera wore the jersey as he competed with his teammates and friends in a soccer match as part of the Riverhead Soccer League, known as La Liga de Riverhead. A pink soccer ball remained at rest by the jersey, a makeshift memorial to honor the fallen soccer player, who was one of five family members killed in the fast-moving house fire on East Second Street last Tuesday.

The tournament served as a fundraiser for the victims of the fire. Twelve teams paid $500 entry fees.

The goal was to raise $15,000, according to Paul Villafranco, who runs the league with his father, Antonio Villafranco. Paul Villafranco confirmed they raised over $13,500, which they will personally bring to the Rivera family in Guatemala.

“They have the GoFundMe and everything here to send the bodies over there, but I don’t think they have money over there to do everything else,” said Paul Villafranco.

The GoFundMe for the Rivera family has currently raised over $68,000. Services for the five family members are still pending through Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home in Riverhead.

Ruben Gonzalez, the father of Mr. Penate Riveras’ half sister, Andrea, also attended the event. He addressed the community during a break in the tournament as community member expressed their condolences on the loss of his 16-year-old daughter.

“Thank you for everything,” he said in Spanish. “I have no words to express the gratitude I feel.”

Mr. Penate Rivera played for about three months on the team known as Manchester City in the league and he played about five days a week, Paul Villafranco said.

His teammates had only good things to say about him.

“He was an excellent person, I was very sad,” said teammate Gabriel Araya in Spanish. “It was hard to believe, because we had been on the field with him on Sunday and then on Tuesday when we heard the news. It was a hard blow.”

Vilma Torres, who runs the team Honduras FC in the league, said Mr. Penate Rivera and his two cousins — who also perished in the fire — had spent so much time on the field, “they became like family.”

Before taking the field, the players all wore a shirt that bore the pictures of Mr. Penate Rivera, his mother, his sister and his two cousins to honor their memory.

About 1,500 people attended the fundraiser, Paul Villafranco said. Several local businesses contributed, such as Martas Deli, Restaurante Sabor Latino, Cecys Multiservices, Kind Regards and more.

A raffle with prizes like a soccer ball, a basket filled with Colombian products, four tickets to a New York Red Bulls soccer match, and a 55-inch television was held that will benefit both the victims of the fire. Funds will also go toward the young Riverhead woman who was fatally stabbed late Thursday night, Marta Esmeralda Ramirez-Carbajal. The 20-year-old played soccer in a separate league based in Calverton, but was well known among the soccer players in La Liga de Riverhead.

“This raffle we’re doing, we’ll divide the funds between the two families, we’re collaborating with them too,” said Antonio Villafranco in Spanish.

Paul Villafranco said Marta was “part of our soccer community.”

 “She would be there every Sunday, she loved the sport,” he said.