NYCFC’s Long-Awaited Arrival Galvanizes SupportersDefying critics, NYCFC support is growing, as supporters identify even more with their club after watching its first competitive match
by Nick Chavez | Friday, March 13, 2015
What happens when the vision of soccer-starved New York City fans supersedes pessimistic media narratives and endless cheap shots from rival fans?
“My most important takeaway? All of my trepidation regarding being a ‘Cityzen’ [nickname for Manchester City fans, whose club owners also own NYCFC] or anything else involving Manchester City melted away watching our team. This is my club and City Football Group can't take that from me.”
Third Rail member and Liverpool supporter Brian Andreycak shared these sentiments on the NYCFC supporter club’s facebook page following the long-awaited viewing of New York City FC, finally playing a competitive match vs. fellow MLS expansion side Orlando City SC , and it seemed to resonate with many Third Railers.
Fellow Third Rail member and Liverpool Red Andrew Plagainos responded to this sentiment, “I think this is mainly about the realization of NYCFC from concept to reality. I do feel validated that NYCFC is our team for our city. I will stop short of calling myself a "Cityzen". I am a New Yorker- by birth, by choice, forever”
And for a club that will inevitably represent the soccer fans of New York City, playing in and holding events in the City, with its New York City name and badge, New York City marketing and imagery, this is exactly the type of a response MLS hoped for when it established this club with its oft-criticized “build it and they will come” strategy.
Andrew went on to describe earlier days when Manchester City fans, in the NYC area and abroad, tried to pressure emerging NYCFC fans of different allegiances to “acquiesce” to Manchester City on NYCFCForums.com. He said flame wars would be constant, but it appears the hordes of the non-City supporting NYCFC fans have won out and claimed their club, and the club culture, for their own. This was not only a victory for them, but surely for Major League Soccer.
As such, it appears the old, lingering media narrative that has existed since New York City FC was announced back in May of 2013 is really losing any legs it ever had to stand on. New York City fans did what is common-place for football fans around the world… they supported their most local club with passion, regardless of allegiances or rivalries of teams an ocean away, and even before they had a chance to play a competitive match. The vision for what their own club can be and how they can create this club culture was the draw, and now they are seeing it come to glorious fruition.
A somewhat rare Manchester City-supporting Third Railer David Carlin weighed in, “Man City USA? Not after the outpouring of pride in posts, videos and photos I've seen the last two days (following the first match). This club belongs to the fans now and I can't feel anything other than optimism as I have great faith in this fan base and the ownership to make NYCFC a measuring stick for years to come.”
“Man City USA” is what many naysayers and and some media pundits had dubbed the club, saying it would be impossible for American fans of rival clubs including, say, City’s biggest club rival Manchester United, to ever think of supporting its rival’s sister club in New York City.
But several Manchester United supporters like Brian Toto, also a founding father of the Third Rail, saw it differently:
“It took me a while, but I came to the rationalization that I have to support my city and a team that seems poised to be of the City, for the City. I take a lot of pride in being a New Yorker. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be there from the beginning. I am happy that CFG came in and purchased this team and is moving forward with their vision. Without them, this team wouldn't exist.”
Caption: Manchester United fans Scott Bednar and Brian Toto (right) are now also NYCFC supporters/Third Rail founding members, who made the trip to Orlando for NYCFC’s first-ever MLS game.
And for those that thought New York City FC would be viewed as “plastic” and “inorganic” by New York Soccer fans, they couldn’t be more wrong about that either, as Third Rail member and Liverpool FC fan Giancarlo Mascaro explains: "The thing about New York City FC is they rep the City. They rep the culture, the nationalities, the 180 languages, the good neighborhoods, the bad neighborhoods. From the deli on the corner to the most expensive place out there, NYCFC is there representing it"
Regardless of all the vitriol and criticism relentlessly launched at New York City’s newest pro team and its fans over the last 2 years, one thing was always underestimated -- The Big City’s appetite for the World’s greatest sport, and their longing of a “Football Club” they can finally identify with in the 5 Boroughs and beyond.
"I'm a Chelsea fan, but NYCFC moved to New York at the exact same time as I did. I just couldn't ignore the coincidence and had to support the club because it is New York City's team,” explained Marie Claire Bousquette, writer for Hudson River Blue, Empire of Soccer, and member of emerging NYCFC Supporters Group “Hearts of Oak.”
"After watching NYC's first match ever, surrounded by supporters in a packed Williamsburg (Brooklyn) bar, the enthusiasm surrounding the new club was absolutely contagious. I can't wait for the home opener."
A home opener that has more than 30,000 tickets sold, with so much of a demand that Yankee Stadium is opening up the 400 level for fans that have yet to get a ticket to New York City FC’s historic first match in their iconic, temporary home.
And with New York City FC recently boasting 15,000 season ticket holders, the Third Rail with over 1,600 paid members, and the hundreds of fans that are involved with the other NYCFC supporter clubs like Brown Bag SC and Bronx Football Social Club, it seems that one thing is for certain -- The naysayers and “experts” don’t always get it right.