Futbol, the king of sports for many Latinos from South and Central America, ignites a contagious passion. And for those who’ve migrated to Connecticut, that love for the game hasn’t been left behind in their native countries.
People like Dayana Corredor and Julian Rubino, hailing from Colombia, kick-started Arrayanes soccer school in mid-2023, seeking to inspire a new generation of U.S.-born Latinos to embrace the game.
Julian Rubiano, the mastermind behind Arrayanes as its founding technical director and owner, is leading the charge in molding Connecticut’s young soccer scene. Delving into the meteoric rise of soccer’s popularity in the U.S., Rubino credits the likes of Argentenian soccer star Lionel Messi making moves in Major League Soccer with the Inter Miami team. He said the sport’s global allure gives soccer a knack for bringing diverse communities together.
“I see soccer as freedom, as the option within the field to demonstrate your inner self that perhaps you can’t normally show,” Rubiano said. “Soccer is equality, and we are all-inclusive.”
For those facing financial constraints, Arrayanes embraces all, offering volunteer options and support from parents and representatives to secure donations and sponsorships.
Rubiano’s own journey in soccer, spanning over 15 years, has been diverse. From playing the game himself to working in various roles within sports clubs, he said he brings a wealth of experience to Arrayanes. His vision extends beyond training athletes; it’s about instilling values, creating memorable experiences, and fostering a sense of belonging.
“Only those who live it, can feel it,” Rubiano said.
With a focus on values, discipline, and respect, his school teaches a diverse group of three to 18-year-olds, including second-generation Hispanic and caucasian children. They participate in bilingual soccer sessions, fostering social interaction and community cohesion, with 25 joining in winter and over 70 in summer.
Xavier Aguirre Santana, a guidance coordinator at Arrayanes soccer school, said he brings a wealth of experience and passion to the field. Hailing from Ecuador, Xavier’s connection to soccer runs deep. From his early days as a player to transitioning into coaching, he has spent over two decades honing his sports skills.
He said soccer coaching young children is less common in the U.S.
“Here, I see the soccer training for children as quite delayed, as it’s not the number one sport in the country,” Santana said. “which means coaches are not adequately prepared to lead a child.”
Xavier’s background includes coaching youth and professional teams, fostering talent, and shaping the next generation of players.
“It’s not the same to have experience playing soccer and teaching. You have to go through an academic process and improve yourself to teach,” he said. “I believe that Arrayanes will give the initial push so that the rest of the soccer schools try to improve and make their sports planning according to the kids’ ages.”
Reflecting on the state of youth sports in the United States, Xavier acknowledges the challenges in soccer development, emphasizing the importance of fostering local Latino prodigy talent by implementing better coaching standards and structured training programs to pave the way for future professional soccer opportunities.
The next generation of U.S. soccer
Defying gender norms, Dayana Corredor, the co-founder and driving force behind Arrayanes, stands out as a trailblazer in a traditionally male-dominated realm. With a firm commitment to inclusivity and gender equality, Arrayanes proudly features mixed divisions, underscoring their conviction that individuals of all genders have the potential to thrive in the realm of soccer.
“I think the beauty of soccer is that it’s universal; it includes us all,” Corredor said. “Historically, we women haven’t had the [same] opportunity in this game. My role here is to support girls and their abilities.”
Ten-year-old Brittany Abigail Rodriguez, from Honduran roots, said girls can excel in any sport.
“I like meeting new people and to learn new things,” Rodriguez said. “Girls can play soccer and play any sport. It makes me feel strong and powerful.”
She encouraged other kids to pursue their passions regardless of societal expectations, highlighting the importance of believing in oneself.
From Norwalk with ties to El Salvador, young soccer prodigies like Miguel Alfonso Carranza, affectionately known as “Miguelito” among his peers, are already making waves at just six years old. With an appetite for mastering new tricks and skills on the field, Miguel said he embodies the true spirit of the sport.
“It’s so fun,” he said. “It’s better when you use your head.”
Rubiano hopes in the near future to pursue partnerships with clubs like Hartford Athletic to foster a vibrant soccer scene in Connecticut, emphasizing the profound bond between local Latino youth and the sport. He said he aims to nurture their talent for professional success through holistic development.
“I’ll be a soccer player if I want to,” said six-year-old Carranza. “If you work harder, you get more money.”
Connecticut Sinks Deeper into Debt, Hidden Behind Budget Surpluses
The U.S. and the State of Connecticut are sinking deeper into debt. The skyrocketing national debt receives widespread media attention, Connecticut’s almost none. Uncle Sam’s growing debt is highlighted and explained by huge budget deficits, while Connecticut’s increasing liabilities are hidden behind budget surpluses.
Yet, there’s another reason that growing debt in the Nutmeg State is largely ignored. The increase is caused mainly by overgenerous and underfunded state employee compensation. No one, certainly not union-friendly Democrats, wants to offend public sector unions by exposing this reality.
Actually, Democrats have employed active disinformation and willful indifference to misinform and uninform the public about the last two state labor contracts.
In 2022, Governor Lamont inked the SEBAC 2022 agreement, a four-year deal with three years of 4.5% annual pay boosts (combining wages and “annual increments”). Lamont is now negotiating the fourth year, which was left “open.” The three-year increase accumulates to a robust 14% compound increase. That doesn’t count $3,500 in pensionable bonus payments nor the separate pandemic pay averaging $1,000 per employee in 2023.
When legislators approved SEBAC 2022, the Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the future cost of the agreement, excluding the impact upon the state employee pension fund. OFA stated “The SERS impact will not be recognized until FY 24.” There has been no official follow-up analysis of SEBAC 2022, even to assess its impact upon SERS.
Contrast this with the treatment of the SEBAC 2017 labor agreement negotiated by former governor Dannel Malloy. Malloy claimed that SEBAC 2017 would save the state $24 billion over 20 years. He and Democrat legislators passed a law requiring the State Comptroller to track the alleged savings on an annual basis over a decade. Every year, the State Comptroller prepares the “SEBAC 2017 Savings Report,”
Almost half ($9.7 billion) of the “savings” were fictional wage concessions that state employees never made.
The fantasy relies upon the preposterous notion that state employees are entitled to raises every year, as if annual raises are the equivalent of a birthright. If employees do not get a raise, the raise they don’t get is called a “saving.”
So, who established the “raise they didn’t get” in 2017? Malloy did. In his budget proposal, he proposed hundreds of millions of raises. Then, he negotiated a better bargain for a few years and called the difference “savings.”
How do we know this? From the documentation that Malloy’s Office of Policy and Management published in support of his claimed savings. Under a header of “Wage Estimates were developed by OPM” (not an independent source), it states “Elimination of potential FY 2017, 2018, and 2019 increases: Removes all of the proposed RSA increase in the Governor’s recommended budget…” [Emphasis added.]
The raises that workers “didn’t get” were figments of Dan Malloy’s imagination – they were “potential,” “proposed” and “recommended.” There was no existing wage contract under which unionized state workers were legally entitled to raises that they gave up in negotiations with Malloy.
Malloy claimed these wage savings in the fiscal 2018-2019 budget – and over the next 18 years. That is how the fantasy number balloons to $9.7 billion. Why not $48.5 billion over the next century?
Malloy’s claim was ludicrous in the first place, but this exercise in make-believe has become embarrassing even to the State Comptroller who wrote in the recent Report “In general, savings estimates of prior policy changes become more tenuous the more time passes…”
Wait, it gets worse. While employees agreed to three years of wage freezes, then they received two healthy 3.5% wage increases. In addition, most still received five years of “annual increments” (aka “step increases”) that average 2% per employee, and Malloy paid a $2,000 bonus to those who did not receive “increments” and $1,000 to those who did. Factoring in “increments” (but not bonuses), employees enjoyed three years of 2% annual increases and two of 5.5%. That accumulates to a compound 13.7% increase over the five-year period. Not bad.
The entire exercise involved sleight of hand where Malloy backloaded wage increases, so he could create the illusion of “savings” at the front end.
While SEBAC 2017 has been distorted by this elaborate exercise in disinformation, Lamont’s SEBAC 2022 deal has simply been ignored.
Except that the Nutmeg Research Institute chose not to ignore SEBAC 2022 and commissioned a study of it by The Townsend Group, which I head. We found that SEBAC 2022 increased the unfunded liability of the SERS pension fund by a whopping $4.5 billion, or 11%, and that it has increased state labor costs to a current annual running rate of $8.5 billion, a level $836 million, or 11%, higher than costs in fiscal 2021 immediately before SEBAC 2022 took effect.
An outdoor swim festival in Vermont … in the winter? These hardy CT swimmers are headed there this weekend
Jeff Ruben of Madison once swam in Antarctica. He was a tour guide on a ship with a Russian doctor who swam regularly so Ruben joined him one day. The water was minus-3 degrees.
“It’s not something you want to do for a long time,” said Ruben, 60. “It feels kind of like it’s burning you.”
So it’s no surprise that Ruben, who swims year-round at Hammonasset Beach in Madison, is joining a growing number of winter swimmers who will travel to the northernmost part of Vermont this weekend to compete in the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival at Lake Memphremagog, a 31-mile-long lake that straddles the border of Vermont and Canada.
The festival is in its 10th year and about 175 people will swim, including six from Connecticut.
The swimming “pool” is 25 meters long and cut out of ice. There are races from 25 meters to 200 meters and the competition starts Friday with a 25-meter “hat race,” in which swimmers try to outdo each other with creative headgear.
Two of Ruben’s friends went last year and urged him to sign up.
“It has a reputation of being a fun event,” Ruben said. “Not everybody wants to get in a swimming pool made out of ice, but I like swimming in the winter.”
The festival is the creation of Phil White, who lives on the lake in Newport, Vt. Years ago, he started an open water swimming competition in the summer and had an ice-skating festival in the winter. One winter day, he was out on the ice and some town workers were cutting blocks of ice for the winter carnival. He took a photo of the ice cutter and posted it on social media and wrote, “Anybody want to go swimming?”
“It was a joke,” White said this week.
Except people started to ask him if he was serious. Half-serious, he replied. He didn’t know how to cut a pool into the ice but thought he could figure it out. “I said, “I don’t know anything about winter swimming, and I wouldn’t undertake it without some experienced people helping me with safety issues and organization.’”
Swimmers offered to help, and the first event was a one-day affair. The town workers cut a hole in the ice for the pool on Friday but by Saturday morning, the water had frozen again, and the swimmers and volunteers and White spent the morning breaking up the ice with sledgehammers so the event could take place. There were about 40 swimmers that day.
Safety is important. There are volunteers who walk along the side of the pool with hooks, in case swimmers need to be pulled out. There are EMTs. There are people who help the swimmers disrobe before the event and help them get their clothes back on after and help them to the warming hut.
Martin McMahon of Simsbury, who became the first person from Connecticut to swim the English Channel in 1985, went to the festival in 2020, right before COVID shut everything down. He went back again in 2022.
“You’re in for such a short time, your body can’t tell if you’re hot or cold,” McMahon said. “It’s bizarre.
“The first year I did it, I was so freaked out about being cold that I swam my events – it’s a two-lane pool – I would beat the person next to me, then I was climbing out fast, grabbing my robe and practically running to the (warming) hut. Then I watched and saw all the other swimmers, when they finished, they were stopping to shake the hand of the person next to them. I felt like a bad guy. So once I could mentally handle it, I’d hang out and wait.”
McMahon, who swam an Ice Mile (which is exactly what it sounds like, a mile in frigid winter water) once when he was younger, said there’s a procedure for warming up after getting out of the water.
“You have to climb out and just shiver and get some warm liquid into your body,” he said. “You don’t jump into a hot shower; you walk into a hut and just shiver until you stop shivering and then you go into the shower.
“It’s a blast. You’re with all these other crazy people from all over.”
It should be pointed out that wetsuits aren’t allowed. The water on Tuesday was 30.5 degrees. On Saturday, the outdoor temperature is expected to be 12 degrees (that’s the high) with winds in the 11-14 mph range.
It’s so cold, the water is trying to freeze so the swimmers are swimming through slush.
“Like a frozen margarita,” said Ruben, laughing.
“We have to stir it during the swimming to keep it from icing over,” White said.
There is a bubbler going when the swimming is over for the day to keep the water from freezing.
The event gained popularity post-COVID when pools were closed, and swimmers were forced to swim outside if they wanted to swim at all. Some became outdoor converts.
Susie Nolan Loiselle of Old Saybrook, who swam at the event in 2020, was a winter sailor before she became a winter swimmer.
“It was the next logical step for me because I do frostbite sailing,” said Loiselle, 59. “We break the ice and sail around in little boats and race other clubs.
“I was already doing something in the cold. You capsize a few times and you’re like, ‘This isn’t so bad.’”
Loiselle has been in Florida for the winter, but she has been immersing herself in a tub of ice water daily to get ready for the event. The first time she competed, the air temperature was 14 degrees with a negative wind chill, and the water was about 30 degrees.
“They have to skim out the ice chunks that are forming,” she said.
Loiselle is on the board of the International Ice Swimming Association (IISA). She competed in the first national winter swimming championships earlier this winter in Virginia, where 45 competitors swam in a pool outdoors.
That was more serious; this weekend is more about fun. She is ready for the hat race; her first time she fashioned a Ken and Barbie pool hat.
“I froze Ken and Barbie into the pool and made ice cubes,” she said. “I got there and saw people had smoking paper mâché dragons … mine was lame in comparison.”
The hat contest serves as a warmup for the event.
“The first event should be head above the water so people could get used to the cold,” White said. “Getting your head down in the water is a whole different experience.
“We’re trying to project this as, as intimidating as this might be, it’s very doable. I think an awful lot of people are looking to challenge themselves, not against others, but against themselves. This is something we’ve conveyed is safe – we take safety really seriously, but at the same time we have fun with the challenge of it all and people can see, ‘Oh, other people are doing it. I’m going to try it.’
“Then they get hooked because the endorphin release after they warm up is huge.”
Amy Meskill of Killingworth was a swimmer in high school and college and started swimming in the winter in 2021. She went to the festival last year and is going back this weekend.
“It’s mentally challenging to get out there and train on days it’s windy and below freezing,” said Meskill, 32, who trains at Hammonasset. “But we go every weekend pretty much to the beach and swim to stay acclimated to the water.
“My husband thinks I’m a little crazy.”
Monroe Man Scores Big With Winning Lottery Scratch-Off
MONROE, CT — A Monroe business sold a winning lottery ticket to a Monroe man.
On Feb. 16, the resident, identified as only “Timothy M” by the Connecticut State Lottery, played 200X on a ticket he bought at the Cumberland Farms located at 455 Main Street, which paid out $10,000.
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