An Angry Anecdote from a Hopeful Red Bull Fan…

The Protagonists

The Protagonists

After a long week Thursday finally came along. Thursday meaning Thierry Henry’s big NY Red Bulls debut against English side and old foe, Tottenham Hotspurs. Before I get into my little anecdote about tonight, I would like to give my plaudits to Monsieur Henry. This man is absolute class. Everything he has said and done so far has been absolutely genuine and I am giving into it all. Let’s understand that about only 5 years ago, this guy could have played on any team in the world. He was and still is the real deal (which is why when I hear these disgraceful, peace of crap, ignorant, fu#@ing idiots interviewing him, I absolutely cringe… I am sorry, but this is awful; Bienvenue Thierry. Everything you’ve heard about soccer in America is apparently true thanks to these wankers). And get this. 2.5 hours before kickoff, Henry took the PATH from Manhattan to Red Bull Arena with a bunch of fans. That is unheard of! Amazing. Unfortunately I just missed him, as I took the same train about 30 minutes later.

Before the game: Seeing as my Red Bulls soccer buddy (aka my dad) couldn’t make it to the game tonight, I decided to use this as an opportunity to experience an MLS game from a slightly different “angle”. So I decide to buy a ticket in the Red Bull supporter’s section and hang out with the Empire Supporters Club (ESC), one of the largest soccer supporters groups in the US, before and during the game. These guys were great to have drinks with beforehand. A few young college geeks that just want to get into the game; a few people that can’t speak English; and many Metrostars old-timers that have been around since the league’s first days. Chatting with them before the game was one of my few positive impressions that I took away from my new friends…

Warmup: I left the bar a little early so that I could catch the warm-ups and see Henry kick the ball around for the first time in a Red Bull jersey. I was in the second row behind our goal so I got to see the guys very very close up. Very very cool. Everyone went crazy when he came out to warmup and those of us already there welcomed him with a good ole’ “Henry” chant.

The Game: First off, the Red Bulls played a great game. Two typically stupid defensive mistakes caused us the loss. But the big story of the night was that it only took 25 minutes for Thierry to put one in the net (although he did miss one from 6 feet out shortly before…but we can forget about that). But there was one thing that ruined my “Henry debut experience” and that was where I was standing. I am sorry ESC … but you’re far from the GSE. By a long shot. As a NYRB season ticket holder that doesn’t typically stand with these guys, I wanted to know hear some of their chants from close up. And what I heard was absolutely pathetic. How many bloody times am I gonna hear the “whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa, whoaaa, whooaa, whoaaaa oh oh oh, METRO” chant (sidenote: many Red Bull fans still use the old “Metrostars” team name in reference to the team). Or the “We follow, we follow, we follow! ‘Cus we support the Metro!” chant. And when all else fails, “Let’s go Red Bulls! Clap clap, clap clap clap.”

C’MON PEOPLE! I know you guys have brain! Can we be a little bit more clever??? Ok fine. There may have been 20 or so “ring leaders” that had some clever chants, but who cares if no one else knows/can’t hear them…

Here’s my favorite part of my little story. So Tottenham’s typical backup goalie, Carlo Cudicini, got the nod and played the entire 90 minutes today. Let me first give you some background on our friend Carlo. He’s Italian. He used to play for Chelsea FC. And he’s an average goalie at best. In the second half, Cudicini defended the goal in front of our supporter’s section. The ESC and everyone else in section 101 loves this because this is their opportunity to yell, “You suck asshole!” after every goal kick. Sort of funny, but a bit premature, and it gets old quickly.

So naturally Cudicini began getting harassed. But some guys took it a bit too far… they unleashed a “Where’s your pizza?” chant. The biggest insult that one could possibly ever say to an Italian, is to question where his pizza is at. It’s like the N-word or something… Give me a freaking break. Where’s your pizza? Really?! The Scottish guy next to me was like what the hell are they chanting? He answered his own question by telling me, “That right there was your classic, stupid American soccer chant,” and sadly I couldn’t agree with him more. So I looked at him and I said, “Chelsea reject” and softly clapped my hands. Then I repeated it once more, “Chelsea reject! *clap* *clap* *clap*.” And then he followed suit. And soon enough, all of section 101 was doing it: chanting Carlo Cudicini is a reject, loud and proud. In fact so loud, that Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp acknowledged it after the game (last 4 lines)!

Like many anecdotes, I end this story with a moral…

Moral: At Carlo Cudicini’s expense, I felt a little guilty pleasure for starting such a harsh chant for a former Blue. But that just shows that it’s the short and clever chants that are most effective. It also shows that our fans will repeat anything that has the slightest rhythm and rhyme to it. In the end, despite how dumb and nonsensical many of our section’s  chants were, the guys are there to create an atmosphere. And usually no one will be able to even hear what these guys are saying, but as long as they go crazy for 90 minutes, they’re doing a good job. Who knows? Maybe that’s enough to make a little kid’s experience at a soccer game who’s sitting at the opposite end of the stadium. Yeah these guys might not have the deepest connection with their clubs just yet. But maybe one day that kid will.

P.S. What inspired this mad/happy post was the freaking 2 hour commute back into NYC, that required me to go from Harrison, to Newark, to NY Penn Station, in order to avoid massive lines. For those of you who are unfamiliar, that’s first going west, and then doing a 180 and going east. I can now see why New Yorkers don’t come to these games, but that’s a whole different issue. I’ll make sure to address that on a different day…


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