NEW YORK - As New York City FC (NYCFC) grows, so do the opinions.
There are those who support NYCFC while others have strongly opposed the second MLS New York franchise. Recently, soccer writer Zac Wassink stirred some controversy as a Guest Columnist on EmpireOfSoccer.com when he made the argument that there was no “organic movement” from NYC soccer fans demanding the establishment of NYCFC.
He appears to have come to the conclusion that there needs to be a “fan movement” demanding an MLS team in its market in order for the franchise and its fans to be legitimate, rather than of the “plastic” variety. “In NYCFC, MLS has its first plastic club and the league’s first true plastic fans,” is how he put it. You can read his article by clicking here.
Here’s my response…
Its “first”, eh? Now, my history may be a bit hazy, but where was this “grassroots demand” with the original MLS franchises when the league was launched in 1996? Did New Jersey have a “Sons of Ben-like” movement demanding the establishment of the New York/New jersey MetroStars? Did the LA Galaxy? Did any of the original MLS franchises have these fan movements prior to the first MLS season?
For that matter, did the New York Cosmos have this “organic fan movement” to start the club? No, Warner Communications executives founded the club, and nobody knew it existed or cared until they paid Pelé an immense salary to play for the club, in a league that was made up of mainly amateurs.
As you can see, by the NFL-writer’s definition, all of NASL/MLS teams that claim to represent New York City were originally established as “plastic franchises” with “plastic fans.”
Truthfully, it really doesn’t matter, as it’s a frivolous accusation bereft of honest perspective, but the level of hypocrisy is truly shocking, considering the source.
The fact is New York City, before NYCFC, didn’t have its own top-flight soccer club. Considering this, in what world does it make sense for America’s top-flight soccer league to not have an actual club presence within the limits of the nation’s biggest city, the media capital of the world, which is home to a considerable number of international soccer fans?
How could it not be a priority for MLS to make the effort to put a team in this hotbed of soccer enthusiasm, hopefully giving these many international soccer fans a reason to be emotionally invested in MLS?
Of course, we have Red Bull New York, the energy-drink branded phoenix that emerged from the red and black ashes of the old New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Spending its entire history playing in New Jersey, with the Red Bull logo appearing prominently on what should be the club’s most sacred of icons, the RBNY club crest, did anyone really expect the majority of the proud, European football-loving New Yorkers to get behind this franchise?
No, unfortunately for MLS, only a minute percentage of NYC residents have any interest in RBNY, leaving a vast, untapped niche in America’s most populated city that MLS had yet to really try to court with any hope of success. At least until the arrival of New York City FC, that is.
Now, let me be clear. The last thing I want to do is to demean the impressive supporters’ groups and loyal fans that have stuck it out with RBNY through all of its hard times since the MetroStars days. They deserve a lot of credit for staying true to their team and avoiding the vile snares of Eurosnobbery. I, for one, will always sincerely respect these supporters for that.
That aside, the fact that NYCFC already has new supporters for the club popping up every day, before a single player has even been signed, has become an ever-increasing trigger of anxiety and spite with some of the fans of the other NYC soccer teams. Their resulting desperation has even driven them to the point that they’ve begun to reach for anything to try to tarnish NYCFC’s image, even pretending to suddenly be very concerned with human rights activism.
These fans, referring to NYCFC’s ownership’s connection to the United Arab Emirates, are ignoring the fact that the UAE’s human rights’ is ranked #14th as opposed to the United States #20th ranking. You can find the information on the International Human Rights Rank Indicator’s website.
Shouldn’t NYCFC’s opposers who believe in human right be fighting for change in their our country first? Aren’t there extreme human rights atrocities being committed every day around the world that these same people are conveniently ignoring? Where’s the same voices when the need to help raise awareness for some of these heinous situations, none of which include the UAE, but are considered the top 10 Worst Countries for Human Rights according to the Huffington Post?
Nice try, sports fans. This is clearly a “fake outrage” strategy from rival club fans with an agenda to try to put off potential New York City FC fans. It’s a desperate attempt by insecure fans that fear for the future relevance of their team.
It reeks of someone who’s getting the sinking feeling that he bet on the wrong horse for so many years, only, as he fears, to be brushed aside for the seemingly more ambitious New York City Football Club. Why else would one be so bitter and on the offensive regarding a club that has yet to sign a single player?
If NYCFC fans are “plastic” (which, by the way, is such a mindless statement that you have to chalk it up to trolling), then I identify the many within the opposing side as “paper fans.” How fragile must you be? How little faith must you have in RBNY, and what makes it special, that your first and constant instinct is to attack the nascent NYCFC and those who are excited for its potential, most of whom are just beginning to take interest in MLS?
Red Bull supporters, for your sake and the sake of your club, don’t be disingenuous “paper fans.” Be the indomitable fans you’ve always been. Don’t sacrifice your dignity at the altar of insecurity. You are one of the MLS originals.
You are the Supporters’ Shield holders. You are part of what’s right with growing game in our country. You have always been resolute in the face of New York City-area Eurosnobbery, which is unfortunately rampant. For that, I will always salute you.
Don’t be frail “paper fans” that fold and crumple so easily because an ambitious club named New York City FC is beginning to plant its flag and make noise. Face them bravely, with pride in your history, supporter culture, and your soccer. Don’t be a hypocritical, posturing worm. Meet them with your dignity intact.
And, to that point, don’t be disingenuous and act like you wouldn’t be happy if your MLS club inherited the resources of City Football Group. Don’t pretend that you wouldn’t be excited by the prospect of Jason Kreis hand-picking and molding the talent NYCFC will boast into a well-oiled machine, the way he impressively did with the much leaner resources he had at Real Salt Lake, if this were the club you supported.
And don’t be blind to the fact that MLS potentially having an elite, well-supported club in New York City is great for the area’s soccer, which means it’s also to the benefit of Red Bull New York (and the New York Cosmos) itself. Engaging the massive city of New York is instrumental in propelling MLS to becoming one of the biggest leagues in the world. And as American soccer fans, that’s something we all should want.
Yes, NYCFC fans exist and they have many reasons to be optimistic. And NYC-area soccer supporters, you’re in the privileged position of being right in the throes of this New York City soccer revolution. Enjoy this moment because there’s a rising tide in the City, and it promises to lift all ships, regardless of whether their sails are red, blue or green.