Before I went on the trip me and my hosts were trying to figure out what to do so we ended up going to a soccer match which to me was especially interesting since I’m always interested in how the game is celebrated in other countries. He bought tickets for the ultras supporter section which were seats, but anyway. We met up with three friends of his and set out for New Jersey which is where the stadium is located.
We arrived early for the game and my host had found out about this bar which was close to the arena and offered drinks for the spectators before the game. We didn’t expect to find what we were about to experience. While we were walking up the the bar we heard ska music, pretty oud, just like there was some concert taking place. Turns out this bar is the meeting point for the die hard supporters of the New York Red Bulls, the Empire Supporters Club. They had set up a stage in what looked like a parking lot right next to the bar where a band was playing. You had to pay $10 to get inside, but the beers were cheap and the atmosphere was really nice. Lots of mohawks, kids, old people, a very diverse crowd. Firecrackers were being thrown around every now and then and everybod seemed to be enjoying themselves.
When it was near game time we walked outside and just followed the shouting and chanting crowd to the stadium. It was a lot of fun to walk around like this and really had a european feel to it. The stadium itself is one of those new arenas you can find anywhere you go in Europe, especially in Germany, but the seats we had (and we weren’t about to use) were very close to the pitch and everything seemed to be very narrow and intimate. The capacity is something around 25.000 and it might have full by two-thirds maybe.
Before the kickoff the national anthem was played and everyone was raising their fan scrafs above their heads which was a rather unusual sight, but made sense one way or another. For the kickoff the supporters set off smoke bombs, which, to a european, is kind of weird because they are trying to ban those things across the ocean.
So, the match itself wasn’t really that exciting. Red Bulls went up 1-0 after 6 minutes and held on to the lead until the final whistle. Thierry Henry was kind of a disappointment, he had no connection to his team, at least it looked like that to me. The overall level might be good enough to play 3rd division soccer in Germany, but there’s room for improvement. What was the most surprising were the fans.
You couldn’t really tell the difference from a european stadium except for maybe the missing away supporters. The chants were mostly made up from what people sing in Europe, but every now and then something original would pop up. I also liked that they were using chants from Europe as well as from south america. Lots of Spanish words there. And because the team used to be the New York/New Jersey MetroStars they still had a lot of chants with the word „Metro“ in it. I guess my favourite one for the evening was a rendition of the surf tune „Wipe Out“ were everybody was holding on to their neighbour and just jump left and right to the rhythm. Great fun.
So when we were going back on the train after the game everybody seemed to have hd a lot of fun. I strongly encourage anyone interested in international soccer to go and see a match at the Red Bulls arena. The name of the team might suck, but the fans there absolutely don’t. Great Experience.