Get out your vuvuzelas New York soccer fans, international soccer is right in your backyard! Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, will host its first-ever soccer match on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. The national teams of Ecuador and Greece will face off in what should be an electric atmosphere.
Both the Greek and Ecuadorian communities are well represented near Citi Field. Queens County houses a robust population of Ecuadorians, the largest of any county in the U.S. Astoria, Queens boasts the largest population of Greeks outside of Greece.
At a press conference leading up to the event, New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, a Greek-American, was named honorary captain for the Greek team. He discussed his excitement about the game, noting that, “We [Greeks] take our soccer very seriously.” He recalled how rowdy the streets of Astoria became during this year’s World Cup, and jokingly suggested a beefed up police presence to create a “demilitarized zone.”
New York State Assemblymen, Francisco Moya, the first Ecuadorian-American elected to public office in the U.S., was named honorary captain for the Ecuadorian team. His father, Edgar Moya Sr. watched and waved his country’s flag, as his son playfully traded jab at Senator Gianaris, “I'm glad to see him smiling, because he won't be after the Ecuadorian soccer team beats Greece.”
Mets Executive Vice Preseident of Business Operations, Dave Howard, presented each captain with their respective team’s jersey’s. Senator Gianaris chose number five after his favorite Mets player, David Wright. Assemblyman Moya sported number ten, because it is reserved for the best player on the team.
The Greek team is currently ranked No. 12 in the world, but is has lately been facing some controversy. The Greek Football Association issued a statement that said, “Operations of the Greek FA will be suspended indefinitely starting June 6, pending the completion of talks with the government, political parties, and league organizers.” The suspension was the result of excessive fan violence during the season, as well as allegations of match fixing. The suspension will have no affect on the match at Citi Field.
Manchester United midfielder Antonio Valencia is expected to suit up for the Ecuadorian team. Valencia played in the UEFA Champions League Final on May 28th, in which his team lost 3-1. He was the first Ecuadorian to play in the Champions League Final.
If all goes according to plan, this will be the first of many soccer matches at Citi Field. Dave Howard said, “We’d like to do it on a regular basis. We’re going to try and fit in as many [games] as we can. The introduction of soccer is just another way that Citi Field can be used.”