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A Queens team took second place overall in the citywide bocce tournament in the Bronx Sunday, but the bragging rights and grudges were established in a court of shallow sand in Middle Village Saturday as 16 teams from throughout the borough gathered at Juniper Valley Park’s bocce courts for a day of friendly but occasionally intense competition.
After winning the day in Middle Village, the borough’s own Croatian-Italian Alliance went on to the finals in the Bronx, coming in behind the champions, Fantastic Four, from Manhattan. A Staten Island-based team came in third place.
Bocce is a game of gauging distance and momentum that dates back to the ancient Romans, and its pedigree shows. As the teams faced off Saturday to see who could roll the red and green balls the closest to a small white ball called the pallino, epithets and praises were shouted in Italian. At one point several players began yelling at the referee.
A crowd of slightly less than 100 spectators ringed the courts, enthusiastically commenting on the skill or lack thereof displayed by certain players.
Bruno Macari, 66, of Whitestone, has been playing the game since he was 5 back in Italy. He has competed in the citywide tournament for 12 years and goes as far as Rome, N.Y., and Connecticut to take part in other matches.
“The older people, they play much better because they have better concentration,” he said of the median age of the competitors and spectators, which must have hovered near 60.
But he also warned that the Juniper Park teams have held the home court advantage and some of the better Queens players have been competing in Manhattan.
“That’s why the guys from Astoria don’t come here,” he said.
Other Queens residents seemed to enjoy participating in organized sports past the typical sporting age.
“I liked the soccer. Now this is what I do,” said Middle Village resident Giuseppe Cioffi, 80.
Though the tournament was dominated by men, there were a few female players, like Chadia Margy, 55, of Woodside, who started playing bocce four years ago.
“I like to challenge myself,” she said. “It’s what makes me good.”
And the trash-talking? Part of the game, players said.
“They do, of course, but we always tell them we come here to have fun,” Margy said. “We don’t come here to be aggravated.”
“The game is stimulating, antagonistic,” said Howard Beach resident Tony Altieri, 76. “Most of the time it’s friendly.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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