football

Pelé Soccer opens in Times Square

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After the colossal failure that was the NFL Experience in Times Square (it lasted only ten months), I was somewhat surprised to read about the recent opening of Pelé Soccer in Times Square.

According to a press release from SGB Media, “Pelé Soccer Times Square is a destination retail experience that puts Pelé’s legacy and love for the game front and center.”

Of course, the name Pelé needs no introduction to soccer fans, especially here in New York. It’s been over 40 years but Pelé helped raise the profile of soccer in the city and throughout the country when he played for the New York Cosmos from 1975 to 1977.

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Pelé Soccer Times Square is located at 1560 Broadway and is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

Soccer fans will love the in store experience as it features a stadium-inspired design concept. Visitors will enter the store by walking through a tunnel-like hallway lined with memorabilia. The main floor resembles an actual soccer field with stadium-style floodlights and interactive areas. One area will have bleachers with large screens so visitors can watch matches while they shop.

Pelé himself spoke of the opening of the shop in New York.

I am thrilled that Pelé Soccer has come to New York City, a place where soccer fans from all walks of life can come together to share their love for the game. New York was once my home, and I still think of those memories fondly. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have a place in the Big Apple once again.

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Pelé Soccer will also sell gear and merchandise online. In checking out the site I was impressed by the extensive inventory available for sale. For example, under “countries” you can find shirts and kits from all over the globe. For fun I clicked on Estonia, and sure enough there was merchandise.

Pelé Soccer opened its first location in Orlando in 2017 followed by Miami Beach this past summer. There are plans for future store locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Paris, Dubai, Shanghai, Tokyo, and more.



Iranian women allowed to attend a live soccer match for the first time in 40 years

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I truly believe that soccer unites the world. It is played from one end of the globe to the other and is the most popular sport in the world. It brings people together and unites fans in a common cause.

When I read this story about Iranian women being allowed to attend a soccer match for the first time since 1979 it made me realize just how important the sport can be to many. For those of us who are free to make our own choices, we often take for granted something as simple as attending a sporting event.

This story began earlier this year when Sahar Khodayar wanted to attend a match being played by her favorite team, Esteghlal. Khodayari attempted to enter the stadium dressed as a man and was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Court. She feared being jailed for six months and set herself on fire to protest the arrest and advance the cause of women’s rights in Iran.

In reaction to the death of Khodayari, FIFA and women’s rights campaigners put pressure on the Iranian FA to allow women to attend its national match last week versus Cambodia.

3000 tickets were allocated for women who had to sit in an exclusive “women’s only” section of the stadium. The women in attendance were seen cheering, waving flags and just enjoying the game.

One of the women in attendance was quoted saying, “It was really a very big wish. Really, thank you for letting us come. I’m shaking. Thank you.”

While this was a step forward, Iran still has a ways to go to change how it treats women sports fans. The fact that the women had to sit in their own section rather than with their family and friends needs to be addressed. Also, the women were allowed to attend a match featuring the national team. They are currently banned from attending league matches.

Iran won the match 14-0 and afterwards the male players walked towards the women’s section to thank them for their support.

When asked about the presence of women at the stadium a government spokesman, Ali Rabiei said:.

The government has a positive view of the presence of women in stadiums. The infrastructure of Azadi stadium is ready for the presence of women. But the cultural and mental infrastructure must be ready.

This is a great step forward for the women of Iran. Let’s see where this goes from here. What are your thoughts on this?

NYCFC clinches top seed in the Eastern Conference of MLS

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New York City FC are finishing the club’s fifth season in Major League Soccer and it’s been the team’s most successful so far. NYCFC have clinched the Eastern Conference top seed and have also qualified for the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in Club history.

NYCFC have 61 points from 33 games with one more regular-season match left. This is a record high points total for the club.

As the top seed, NYCFC has an automatic bye that will put them into the Eastern Conference Semifinals on either October 23rd or 24th. Time will tell who the club will face, but whoever it is, NYCFC will have home-field advantage.

What makes NYCFC’s accomplishments even more impressive is the fact that they had such a good season without the club’s all time scorer, David Villa. The legendary striker had 80 goals in 124 appearances over his four season’s with the New York side. He moved on at the end of last season to join Vissel Kobe in Japan’s J League.

Time will tell how NYCFC’s season ends, but it’s obvious that in just its fifth MLS season, the club is moving in the right direction.

What are your thoughts on NYCFC?

The first American Soccer League was formed in New York City

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

New York City’s Brookhattan FC was formed in 1933

A lot of people don’t realize that there is a rich history of soccer in New York and the United States that pre-dates what we have today.

Presently, Major League Soccer is in its 24th season and is in 24 different markets.

Before MLS, the North American Soccer League operated between 1968 and 1984. While the league didn’t last too long, the New York Cosmos put the sport on the map in the United States. The Cosmos gained worldwide recognition with a lineup that included Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto.

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

The first American Soccer League was formed by club owners in 1921 at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan

What many people don’t know is that the first American Soccer League was formed in New York City back in 1921. That May, representatives from eight of the country’s soccer teams met at the Hotel Astor in Manhattan’s to launch a new professional soccer league.

The teams included:

  • Philadelphia FC

  • New York FC

  • Todd Shipyards FC (based in Brooklyn)

  • Harrison SC (based in Kearny, New Jersey)

  • J&P Coats FC (based in Pawtucket, RI)

  • Fall River United

  • Falco FC (based in Holyoke, MA)

  • Celtic FC (based in Jersey City)

The sport was growing in the industrial Northeast due to the influx of immigrants who brought their love of soccer with them to their new home. Back then a lot of soccer clubs were sponsored by industrial companies that employed many of the players that represented their clubs. Thus teams such as Todd Shipyards, J&P Coats and later clubs like Bethlehem Steel.

Early on the league proved successful. Some teams drew crowds over 10,000 and the matches were covered by the local newspapers.

These northeast based companies were paying good wages and some of the ASL club were able to entice good players from the UK to come over to the states to work and play soccer for them. Believe it or not, the poaching of players became such a problem that fans in Scotland complained about what became known as the “American menace”.

It got so bad that in 1927 the top brass of the ASL were brought to Finland by FIFA and told to stop taking players from other countries or risk being dropped by soccer’s governing body.

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The Fall River Marksmen played in the original American Soccer League

The league was growing and doing well, but faced problems.

In 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act limited the number of immigrants that could enter the country. Then there was fighting between the ASL and the United States Football Association.

What really led to the league’s demise was the great depression. Companies could no longer afford to sponsor teams and fans didn’t have extra income to spend on tickets.

The ASL folded in 1933…but it would rise again. More on that later.


Youth soccer leagues are on the rise throughout the NYC area

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One of the reasons that soccer is gaining a foothold in the United States is the fact that kids of all ages are participating in the sport. The stereotype of the “Soccer Mom” is real and almost every town in the Metropolitan tri-state area (New York City, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, Southern Connecticut, Westchester and Rockland Counties) has some sort of youth league.

NYCFC joined Major League Soccer in 2015 and immediately reached out to the neighboring communities to set up youth affiliates. They are:

  • Downtown United Soccer Club in Manhattan

  • Manhattan Soccer Club

  • Metropolitan Oval Academy in Queens and Brooklyn

  • New York Soccer Club in Westchester County

  • TSF Academy in New Jersey

  • World Class FC in Rockland County

  • SUSA FC in Long Island

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NYCFC explains their affiliation with these youth organizations as the following:

The New York City FC Youth Affiliate Program is designed to provide soccer technical support and assistance to a select group of clubs from the New York Metropolitan Area. The affiliation with New York City FC offers a clear pathway for the local youth soccer community to reach the highest level of competition, providing each access to the invaluable resources and expertise of Major League Soccer's 20th team.

The fact that kids now have the opportunity to be inspired by professional players in their own city is invaluable for the continued growth of the game. It’s definitely having an impact here in New York.

What is the Nation's League and does anyone really care?

Team Gibraltar

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I am a huge fan of international soccer and always look forward to the World Cup, the European Championships, CONCACAF Cup and the African Cup of Nations. However, this farce that is called the Nations League has me wondering when is enough enough.

I looked up an explanation of the UEFA Nations League competition and here is what it said,

A new national team competition that replaces friendlies with competitive matches, allowing nations to play against equally ranked teams. The four group winners of the top-ranked League A qualify for the UEFA Nations League finals in June 2019. For the remaining sides, there is promotion and relegation to play for, not to mention a potential route to UEFA EURO 2020.

Okay so there are four different “leagues” based on the success or lack of success of the 55 UEFA recognized European football associations. Yet only the top 12 teams get to compete for the trophy? I understand that the thought of San Marino facing France in a championship match would be hysterical, but on the other hand it would be pretty cool.

The top two “leagues” contain the usual suspects such as England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Croatia, etc. The more interesting groups are the two lower leagues. Here’s a look at the mighty nations battling it out here: Faroe Islands, Cyprus, San Marino, Andorra, Malta and perhaps my favorite, Gibraltar. Gibraltar has a national team? Isn’t it a rock that is a territory of Britain? I would love to be able to watch Gibraltar take on the Faroe Islands.

San Marino Stadium

This tournament has promotion and relegation like the national leagues do, but I think they should hand out trophies for the four groups not just the top one. When else would some of these tiny nations ever get a chance for glory?

I’m not sold on this competition. It seems extraneous. However, the one nation that deserves a trophy just for showing up is League D’s San Marino. The lowest ranked team in Europe, San Marino finished bottom of the table with zero points, zero goals and a -16 goal differential. Check out the crowd during the national anthem above.

What do you think of UEFA’s new tournament?

To those who say soccer is boring and NFL is real football, read this!

The sport of soccer continues to grow in popularity here in the states, but for years I’ve had to defend my love of the sport to those that deemed it “boring”.

I used to work at the country’s number one rated sports radio station here in New York and would be mocked and ignored by the station’s “personalities” that believed they knew what the sports fan wanted to see and hear about…and according to these “experts” it wasn’t soccer.

My vindication keeps growing as the the European and world leagues now get plenty of air time on television, draw in crowds at bars and MLS continues to expand. The league started in 1996 with ten teams and is now finishing its 23rd season with 23 teams. While the level of play is not up there with the best leagues in Europe, you cannot deny that MLS is making major inroads on the US sports landscape.

At the same time interest in the World Cup and leagues like La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Serie A continues to grow. Ronaldo and Messi are household names to young sports fans.

I’m a bit of an NFL football fan. My team is the hapless New York Jets. However, I found my interest declining as I watched more and more of the “real” football…a.k.a. soccer. The action in soccer doesn’t stop for time outs and commercials like other sports. The clock keeps running. The athletes on the pitch are in top shape and run for close to 90 minutes.

Many non fans complain that there isn’t enough scoring. However, I don’t think they realize that defense is a part of the game to be admired and that a hard fought 0-0 game can actually be quite exciting (if you understand the game). Compare that to American football.

My favorite source to prove my point is this 2010 article from the Wall Street Journal. The study revealed that an average NFL game contained just 11 minutes of actual action. In other words, a game that is comprised of 60 minutes on the clock and takes over three hours to broadcast consists of JUST 11 MINUTES OF ACTION. Fans that say American football is more exciting than soccer should consider the following from this study:

  • They are actually watching one hour of commercials

  • As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps.

  • 56% of the broadcast is showing replays.

  • NFL football is the rare time based sport where it's common for the clock to run for long periods of time while nothing is happening.

  • Once again NFL fans see just 11 minutes of action per game.

Of course to each their own, but my message to those quick to dismiss soccer as boring, is don’t knock it unless you try it…and maybe fans can use all those commercial times outs during NFL games to tune in to see some real football.

Wow, what a goal, what a match

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It’s pretty obvious that I am an Arsenal fan. Over the years there have been so many amazing goals that it would be nearly impossible to figure out a top 10 or even a top 20. Regardless, there was a goal this weekend in Arsenal’s 1-5 romp at Fulham that was unlike any I’ve ever seen before.

I’ll set the scene first. In the 67th minute of the second half, Arsenal had a dominating 1-3 lead. Aaron Ramsey was introduced as a sub for Alex Iwobi. 39 seconds later, Arsenal had its 4th goal of the match.

The match commentators explained it best when they said, “that was a goal the Harlem Globetrotters would be proud of.”

Ramsey started the run which included 15 touches. Some of them were perfectly passed headers, passes and the actual goal itself was a deftly touched back heel by Ramsey himself. This one will be on highlight reels for years to come. See for yourself:

That goal was just a part of what was an amazing team performance. Two goals apiece from the striking partnership that is Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sandwiched the Ramsey goal. In the end it was Arsenal’s ninth win in a row in all competitions. Not bad for a club the media and pundits were saying are “in crisis” at the beginning of the new season.

Welcome to Soccer Walks NYC

I have been a huge football/soccer fan since being introduced to the English Premier League in the late 90’s. Believe it or not, back then it wasn’t so easy to keep up with the sport. The games weren’t on local television and there were just a handful of pubs that showed matches from Europe and other top world leagues. The place to go back then was hands down Nevada Smiths. The place’s slogan said it all, “where football is religion”.

A typical gathering for an English Premier League match at Nevada Smiths back in the day.

A typical gathering for an English Premier League match at Nevada Smiths back in the day.

I had some friends from Ireland living in New York at the time that were big Manchester United fans. They invited me to go watch a match between United and Arsenal. I’ll never forget showing up at Nevada Smith’s at 7AM for a 12PM UK time kick off. Not only was the place packed, it was jumping. Fans from both sides were there singing, chanting and ready for the match. Of course there were some beverages being served at this early hour and there was a communal feeling in the air. It was hard not to get hooked.

The popularity of the sport has grown significantly since then and the number of matches that fans can now watch from home is huge. Regardless, it’s still great to get together with fellow fans and watch the match together.

Nevada Smiths is long gone, but its founder Jack Keane now runs a midtown location called The Football Factory where the list of matches and leagues shown is impressive.

This 2014 article from the UK’s The Guardian explains how the sports popularity here in NYC has grown over the years. When your ready, join us for a tour and then it’s off to the pub!

Manchester United fans celebrating a goal from Ryan Giggs as the Red Devils went on to defeat Wigan and wrap up the 2008 Premier League title.