Soccer has arrived in New York City, again.
On Sunday afternoon, New York City Football Club, the city’s newest professional sports team affectionately known as NYCFC, played its first home match,beating the New England Revolution, 2-0.
The soccer game was played in a full Yankee Stadium, the team’s temporary home, under a sky the color of concrete.
Approaching the 5 p.m. kick off, a mix of languages and accents could be heard from the crowd as the 43,507 ticket buyers made their way to their seats, ready for the club’s opening game. Wrapped up in mostly light blue team gear to shield them against the biting wind, the spectators had all come to see the first major soccer team play in the city since 1976.
Hugh Wilmot Jr. who lives in Hastings said he decided to attend the game with his two children for a number of reasons. “The history surrounding it, the fact that I’m a huge soccer fan and this is essentially in my back yard,” he said.
Wilmot, who is originally from Jamaica, bought season tickets for himself and his family. Sunday’s match wasn’t the first time he has seen soccer in the city as he had attended some of the exhibition games held at Yankee Stadium before.
Wilmot’s favorite player is the Spanish striker David Villa, who scored the first of two goals for NYCFC in the 19th minute.
Villa, whose name is printed on the majority of the fans’ shirts, is also Jairo Villamar’s favorite. The Ecuadorian moved to New York City six years ago and attended the game with some of his Latin American friends. He said that just like them he has grown up with the sport and has been a fan all his life. “I like soccer from when I was a kid,” he said.
But not all spectators are as passionate as Villamar or Wilmot. Mathew Graham who lives in nearby Washington Heights decided to attend out of curiosity more than anything. “I’m interested in soccer moderately but because its so close I thought it would be cool to see,” he said. His first experience with the sport was in Rome where he attended a Roma game when he was studying abroad in the Italian capital.
Throughout the match chants of “ole ole ole ole,” “New York City,” and even “We want Chelsea” could be heard erupting from the stands. But this wasn’t enough for some. Harry Bradley and Thomas Willis, two students studying abroad at the University of Albany, said that the level of chanting was low compared to football games back home in England. “British sports are a lot nosier and more passionate,” Bradley said.
The friends who had made the two-hour journey especially for the game said they were expecting to see cheerleaders but were pleased that there weren’t any. “I’m happy there are no cheerleaders because its like football back home,” said Willis.
The two, who finish their study abroad in the summer, said they enjoyed the game and will be back to cheer on NYCFC in the future. “We want a team to support over here,” Willis said.
New York City Football Club’s next match will be an away game scheduled for the 21st of March against the Colorado Rapids.