Football

Sports tragedies teach us that there are things way more important than winning

The world of football (soccer) has experienced two high profile tragedies over the last few weeks that have put things in perspective. Yes, we want our teams to be the best, to win titles, trophies, etc…. but at the end of the day, life is way more important than all of that.

Emiliano Sala was a 28-year-old Argentinian forward for French club Nantes. On January 19th he signed a contract with Cardiff of the English Premier League. He flew back to France to say goodbye to his teammates and take care of some personal business.

He boarded a small plan on January 21st in order to get to Cardiff and his first day of training with his new team the next day. The plane disappeared from radar over the English Channel and both he and the pilot David Ibbotson were gone.

The plane was finally discovered about two weeks later following an underwater search. The body of Sala was inside and recovered. The search for Ibbotson continues.

The outpouring of sadness and grief came from everywhere throughout the soccer world. Here was a young guy on the way to a new challenge that was taken away from the world by fate. It truly proves that no one, not even a highly paid professional athlete, is immune from tragedy. It also teaches everyone that life should be treasured and not taken for granted.

Just last week another awful event rocked the soccer world. Ten youth players between the ages of 14-16 were killed in a dormitory fire at the Flamengo training ground in Rio de Janeiro. An investigation has been launched but that will do nothing to replace the lives lost.

Football is a way of life in Brazil and many youngsters dream of becoming the next Neymar or Pele. Most of these kids were from poor families and the sport was their opportunity to escape poverty and make their dreams come true. We’ll never know who if any would have become professional players, but this tragedy has taken away that possibility.

Both of these horrific events are reminders that we should all appreciate the moment that we are in and value life each and every day!

Leicester City prove that sport is more than just a game

One of the reasons that people love sports so much is for the camaraderie that builds between fans and the club that they support. Part of the reason that I became a fan of soccer is for just that reason.

Everyone has heard of Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United, Boca Juniors and other well known teams from around the world. They have legions of fans, supporters all over the world and lots of money. However, there are tons of smaller teams throughout the world that do not have a global following or rich club owners. What they do have in common with the big clubs, is a supportive fan base.

Take for example, Chapecoense who currently play in Brazil’s Serie A. The small club from the south of Brazil has only been around since 1973 and for the most part played in obscurity in Brazil’s lower divisions. That was until they won promotion to the top league in 2014. They then became a Cinderella story when they reached the finals of the Copa Sudamericana in 2016.

Unfortunately the world learned about Chapecoense when the team’s plane crashed on its way to the finals in Colombia. 71 people were killed including almost the entire team. The outpouring from the soccer world was heartfelt and showed that the results on the pitch are always secondary to the human side of the game.

Similar scenes played out over the past two weeks at Leicester City. The team’s owner and chairman was one of five who lost their lives following a tragic helicopter crash outside of Leicester’s stadium.

The Foxes have been around in one form or another since 1884, but it wasn’t until Thai businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha that the club gained worldwide prominence and acclaim. Defying the odds, Leicester City pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles by winning the Premier League trophy for the 2015-2016 season.

Srivaddhanaprabha and his family were loved by Leicester supporters. The chairman attended many matches and would often leave the stadium by helicopter at the conclusion of matches. That is what he was doing when tragedy struck.

The outpouring from the players, the fans and the community of Leicester are proof that the club is more than just a sports entity. They are a family.

Flowers, scarves, t-shirts and more were laid outside the stadium in the chairman’s memory. Leicester players and the manager made the 6000 mile trip to the funeral in Bangkok at the conclusion of a match and then yesterday the city came together in tribute.

50,000 fans walked from Leicester city centre to the King Power Stadium before the game yesterday as a mark of respect. There was two minutes of silence prior to kick-off and a video of the former owner was shown inside the stadium.

Afterwards the entire club and the owner’s son thanked all sections of the stadium as the fans wearing special shirts and holding up scarves clapped along. Only a Grinch wouldn’t have been moved by the events.

The match was a rather drab 0-0, but on this day the result was of no consequence. It was all about a community and a club that were united as one.

Exploring the growth of soccer in early New York

ONT-FC-1885.champions

As a licensed New York City tour guide, I regularly introduce visitors to the history of NYC. As most people already know, New York was the city where over 20 million people first stepped foot in to the United States between 1855-1954.

I am also a huge football/soccer fan. That’s what led me to explore the idea of combining a history tour of New York immigrants and the impact that these newcomers had on the growth of soccer in New York. I was surprised by the amount of history there is for the sport of soccer in New York.

Part of the reason that immigrants came to New York was for the opportunity to work and provide for their families. Manhattan’s Lower East Side was a major center of garment manufacturing. Even bigger was the Harrison/Kearny area of northern New Jersey. It was one of the earliest centers for the sport in 19th century America.

Immigrant communities were drawn to this rapidly growing industrial region for job opportunities. These workers brought with them their love for soccer as well. Teams were formed by the various textile and garment plants scattered throughout the area and across the river from New York.

Amateur teams were springing up in other industrial regions such as New England and Philadelphia. This led to the organization of the American Football Association in 1884.

In 1885 the American Football Challenge Cup was established with thirteen teams involved; including New York Thistles, New York FC, Paterson FC, O. N. T. of Kearny, and teams from Newark, Connecticut and Fall River, Massachusetts.

This was the first non-league organizing body for the sport in the United States. It lasted until 1925 as soccer continued to grow throughout the country and competing organizations sprang up.

O. N. T. (short for Our New Thread defeated New York FC to win the first title in April 1885.