In print, online, and in your ears? This pilot episode of the Eight by Eight podcast explores Rey Mashayekhi’s issue 03 profile of supporter culture in New York City. Give it a listen!
The past month has seen the 24-hour media cycle inundated with talk of football’s place within the American public consciousness. This is nothing new; several outlets have already made note of the fact that the conversation is a quadrennial tradition in this country as old as the World Cup itself. In writing my piece on football supporters’ culture in New York City, I tried to get away from that trodden narrative and capture the real essence of football’s growing influence in this country. And there is no better microcosm to tell the tale than America’s greatest metropolis.
Jack Keane has seen the story firsthand; he’s witnessed all the labored criticisms of a sport too “soft” and “boring” for American sensibilities. He also knew that New York is a city unlike any other — a bustling, transient intersection of culture and humanity from the world over. He knew there’d be an appetite for football in this city, and since he loves football himself, he committed himself to whetting that appetite. Twenty years after Nevada Smith’s first started showing Premier League matches in the East Village, conversation concerning the sport is inescapable. Everyone in this city loves soccer — the yuppie professionals, the sexagenarian Villagers, the young parents pushing strollers in Park Slope, the hipsters. Oh, how can you forget the hipsters?
And yet, the numbers are beside the point. Anyone who walks 14th St. on a Saturday morning can tell there are droves of people in New York who love the Arsenal, and anyone who tried to get into 11th St. bar during Liverpool’s title challenge last season knows it was futile unless you got there two hours early. The greatest testament to the sport’s growth in our society isn’t the sheer quantity who pull on their club or country’s shirt — its the quality of the supporter that America is producing.
These are people who live, eat and breathe their football. They don’t just support their clubs, they’re obsessed with them. They watch every match, they pick up every article online, they spend their days and their nights thinking — dreaming — about the next match. They congregate in masses on the streets of Newark, walk the Jackson Street Bridge to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, and spend the full 90 on their feet — singing and chanting the entire time. They wake up at 6 AM for a “lunchtime” kickoff in England, get on the train to Manhattan, and plow through three pints of Guinness by halftime — that’s 8:45 AM, New York time — just to take the edge off their nerves.
If my story — and this podcast — captured even one iota of the passion that soccer fans in New York have for the game, then I suppose I did my job. Hopefully, you’ll be able to hear it in the terrifying roar of the River Plate fans at the Football Factory after they went ahead in the Superclasico this spring; in the timber of Ben McCool’s voice as he describes the masochism that goes into supporting Aston Villa. These are the people who constitute the backbone of the game in this country. They love their football, and they most certainly suffer it.
So let me spare you a million online trend pieces, and all the time that would go into reading them. Soccer, football, the beautiful game — it’s here to stay in America. It doesn’t matter how many people watch the World Cup final, or what the MLS’s attendance figures look like at the end of the year, or what Ann Coulter(!) has to say about the matter. Because no matter the club they support, this country is producing world-class football supporters of the highest caliber. Something tells me its players aren’t too far behind.
James Hoare Host, Co-writer
Todd Bogin Producer, Editor, and Co-writer
Rey Mashayekhi Co-writer