2016 was a tough year for many in the Buffalo & District Soccer League, as the death of longtime Celtic player Chris Pepper to melanoma cast a cloud over the season.
The memory of the Buffalo State alum and Clarence resident was cherished in several ways throughout last season - from SoHo FC (a collection of former Celtic players) donning No. 7 Pepper jerseys to a nearly league-wide moment of silence in the seventh minute of one week's matches - but two local clubs have now put together a tournament in his memory.
The inaugural Pepper United 3-vs.-3 Tournament will be held May 20 at Clarence Soccer Center (10000 Clarence Center Road, Clarence), presented by Clarence Soccer Club and the Celtic organization. Age groups for participation run both boys and girls U-8 through U-18, with a U-19+ group split into men's, women's and coed.
Participating teams may roster a minimum of five and maximum of six players, and each team is guaranteed at least three, 20-minute matches. The cost of entering a team is $110 if registered before March 31, and then $120 thereafter. All proceeds from the tournament will benefit Pepper's surviving family - his wife and two children. Further details can be found here.
The tournament came about through a commitment from the Celtic organization, which fields six teams in the BDSL, to Stephanie, Pepper's wife. As a result, the collection of Celtic managers - spearheaded by Chris Voigt - joined with Tom Karanas of Clarence Soccer to set up the memorial event. Buffalo State College's Nick DeMarsh and Mark Howlett were also instrumental in the tournament's creation.
Additionally, the BDSL has named one of its divisions - a split Division I - the Pepper Conference, also in Pepper's memory.