National Pastimes: Soccer's Worldwide Popularity Stretches To Queens
Soccer is the number one sport in the world and in Queens, the sport is king because of the borough's diverse immigrant population. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
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From the friendly pick-up games to a growing number of leagues and tournaments, soccer fever is high in Queens. It's a summertime favorite for many immigrants, who play in the shadow of Citi Field and parks and playgrounds across the borough.
"We don't really play baseball or football or basketball," said one player. "We just stick to what we know."
"I didn't really get adopted to the American sports as I thought I would so I just hold on to soccer," said another.
The game is an obsession for many who live in a borough where more than 60 percent of residents are immigrants or first-generation Americans.
"My dad, my uncles, my brothers, my cousins, they all played soccer," said one player. "So it's kind of a sport we shared as a family."
"I'm 59 years of age right now and I bleed soccer," said Errol Nembhard, a soccer coach.
Nembhard also coaches the Kickers Youth Soccer Club in Springfield Gardens, which has grown into an international club over the last decade.
"You have Jamaicans, Haitians, Trinidadians, Guyanese," he said. "We have African players from Nigeria. We have players from South America, Colombia, Mexico who come here and play ball."
While it is a worldwide sport, the greatest number of fans in the borough appear to be Hispanic. Last year, Citi Field hosted its first soccer game with a matchup between Greece and Ecuador. The game drew nearly 40,000 people, most of them cheering for Ecuador.
It's something Major League Soccer has taken notice of. The league is once again floating a longtime plan to build a soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which would put it in the middle of a heavily Hispanic neighborhood.
There is no timetable for the plan, which faces a lot of hurdles. But one thing is clear: Soccer is big business here because when people are not watching it on TV, they are playing the game.