SATURDAY'S Ballarat District Soccer Association grand final day will be bittersweet for Daylesford and Hepburn United Soccer Club after the passing of a club founder.
It will be an emotional day for the club, which has three teams playing in the grand final, after the sudden passing of Marton Szokolai.
Mr Szokolai has been remembered as a "gentle, lovely soul and a wonderful person" by club president Joshua Smith.
He was a passionate man, building momentum in the community to establish the club, which played its first season in 1986, and was an active member right up until his death.
"He was still involved with the club, still manning the barbecues and attending games," Mr Smith said. "He was incredibly proud and he always provided positive feedback."
"I always used to say to people that there aren't many clubs with 34 years worth of history who still have a founder standing around to have a chat with. It was always a really lovely thing to still have that connection with the past. It's a loss."
Mr Szokolai fabricated wooden goalposts to be used in the club's first game, but they were vandalised the night before. The community rallied around the club, sourcing goals for the game, during which the Forest Rangers defeated the team 27-0.
After that loss, Mr Szokolai worked to instill confidence and character in the team, which won its first title in 1994.
He was dedicated, holding the club presidency numerous times and spending many hours marking lines by hand, training, playing and coaching players. But his involvement extended further than the sport, often providing a listening ear and mentoring younger players in need of direction.
Division 1 senior player Ivan Carter said Mr Szokolai was able to see the bigger picture and that soccer was more than a game to him, but a community, and he supported everybody within it.
"I couldn't think of a person more entwined in a sports club. It's a pretty incredible effort to have that continued dedication," he said.
Mr Szokolai was heavily involved with the junior players. Famously, he would buy a chocolate cake and present it to the best player, accompanied by a speech, after every under-13s game.
He was also passionate about getting the under-12 girls team up and running, which played its first season this year.
Mr Szokolai was proud of the club's performance this year and continued to attend training sessions and games to show his support, including just last weekend.
Rain, hail or shine he was there for all players throughout club.Ivan Carter
His wife, Helen, also supported the club by running the canteen and her Hungarian donuts saw people travel from all over to get their hands on them.
The grand final will be a sad day for the club, with players wearing black arm bands, as the seniors outfit looks to win its first title in 19 years.
Several of the senior players were coached by Mr Szokolai, including Mr Carter, who also played in the 2000 final, which the club won.
Mr Smith said it would be raw for those players, who wanted to win the game for him beforehand, but this would be a further incentive.
"He was happy to have seen the season as it was and to know we are there. It's pretty sad he didn't get to see the three teams in the grand final but perhaps he has the best seat in the house somewhere else," Mr Carter said.
"We will try to bring it home for Marton."
Mr Szokolai lived a humble life in the same house after moving to Daylesford.
He leaves behind his wife and his son Denes, who played for the club for a decade, and his daughter Krystyna, who is a professional international referee. She is planning on attending the finals tomorrow in place of her father.
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