Tag Archives: Soccer

US Open inadvertently shines a light on local soccer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

For many tennis fans the US Open is the closest thing to heaven.

The chance to watch the world’s premier tennis players battle for the country’s top title and partake in numerous tennis-related activities draws some 700,000 fans annually to the two-week sporting event in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

But inadvertently, the Grand Slam literally shone a light on soccer as The Courier observed fans of the world’s most popular sport playing games under the lights of a US Open parking lot on Monday—the tournament’s opening night.

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The soccer players were of various ages and played mixed-gender pick-up games, complete with two white mini goals.

Anyone who frequents Flushing Meadows Corona Park knows how popular soccer is for local players and fans. On any given day—with appropriate climate conditions—the fields are occupied with soccer matches for various age groups.

The sport is so popular officials tried to build a 20,000 to 25,000-seat stadium in the park for a new MLS team. But park advocates fought to keep the stadium out.

Since the soccer fields don’t have lights, most stop playing when it becomes night time, according to players.

However, temporary lights have been set up in the US Open “H” parking lot near the New York Hall of Science as evening matches tend to run late into the night, giving Queens soccer lovers some extra playing time.

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Woodside resident writes book on famed Brazilian soccer player


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Woodside resident has scored a goal in the literary world.

Dominique Beaucant, who is originally from France and came to the United States in 1978, is the author of the privately published book called “Garrincha – O Rei Dos Reis,” meaning “Garrincha – A King of Kings.”

The book looks back on the life of Brazilian soccer player Garrincha, whose real name was Manuel “Mané” Francisco dos Santos.

Garrincha, who passed away in 1983, was known for his “dribble” on the soccer field and also for his bent legs which did not prevent him from helping the South American national team take home World Cup titles in 1958 and 1962. He was referred to as nicknames such as “People’s Joy” and “Bent–Legged Angel.”

“He was more than a soccer player, he was a phenomenon,” Beaucant said. “When I saw a book that came out in 1995, I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do a book one day that gives justice to this great player.’”

The 56-year-old Woodside resident began learning about Brazilian soccer players from his sixth-grade teacher Walter Durando in France. Every time he got together with his teacher he would ask to learn more and before making his trip to America he was given a collection of hundreds of magazine and newspaper clippings of the soccer duo.

As the years went by, his admiration for Garrincha grew into more than just hobby.

“That’s how it started and I never stopped,” Beaucant said. “I was fascinated by the guy, who he was and what he did on the field.”

In 1995, Beaucant, who has been a freelance writer and chef, began jotting down notes on Garrincha and throughout the years kept filling his drawers with hundreds of notes. In 2011, he began combining the notes and started writing the 288-page book.

To complete the book, which is written in Portuguese, contains 245 photographs and comes in a slip case, Beaucant looked back at his large Garrincha collection of newspaper and magazine clippings and images.

He has also traveled to Brazil and Europe for seven years, meeting Garrincha’s family and childhood friends.

More than 100 photographs in the book are never-before-seen images from the French sports newspaper “L’Equipe.”

Each book will be sold individually by Beaucant for $150 and he is plans of taking out a second book on Garrincha as well.

“I never did this book to make money. I never did this book to make a big profit,” Beaucant said. “This book is a result of all of my love, admiration, infatuation, respect and admiration for Garrincha.”

Although the book was printed by a company in New Jersey, the typesetting, cover design and embossing was done by Ebrahim Jaffer of Triboro Printing located at 25-02 Steinway St. in Astoria.

“[Garrincha] is no longer with us physically, but with this book his spirit and his soul [are] still living,”

Beaucant said. “The angel with bent legs, how he was known before, somehow is being reborn and the divine angel that he was is going to fly again.”

For more information or to purchase a book you can email Beaucant at copade58brasilcampeao@aim.com or call 718-626-0486.

 

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Queens College soccer alum to train with Liverpool, Arsenal, AC Milan


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Queens College

After recovering from six surgeries, former Queens College soccer captain Peter Touros is making strides toward his dream to become a pro.

The Astoria native was chosen as one of five grand prize winners in Gatorade’s “Unreal Around the World” contest and will have the opportunity to train with elite football clubs Liverpool, Arsenal, Barcelona, AC Milan and Boca Juniors. He’ll also travel to Brazil for a scrimmage game at Maracanã Stadium, the site of the 2014 World Cup final.

“It’s absolutely tremendous. He’s a great kid and he has been through a lot,” said Queens College soccer head coach Carl Christian. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I compare it to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s the golden ticket.”

Touros, who scored five goals and led the 2013 Queens College team to a 9-5-3 overall record, suffered three of his six injuries — a torn labrum and two ACL tears — during his soccer college career.

The Gatorade contest challenged entrants to demonstrate how training and hard work could translate into success. Touros submitted a video entitled “6 Surgeries Won’t Stop Me,” in which he performed a number of high level shots. Now he’ll be able to train with some of the world’s top teams.

“After all I think he’s been through, it’s well-deserved,” Christian said.

Click here to see Touros’ video.

 

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Ridgewood, Glendale German ancestry revealed in World Cup


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Gottscheer Hall

Most bars will be broadcasting the World Cup game this weekend but to celebrate it in true Deutsch fashion, Ridgewood and Glendale maintain a healthy group of German bars that harken back to the German ancestry of the area.

Gottscheer Hall on Fairview Avenue will be open on Sunday, a day that they usually close on, for the game. Roland Belay, who is the secretary for the bar and grill, plans to meet the game between Germany and Argentina with a full force of potato pancakes with applesauce, goulash , bratwurst, German pretzels and a whole menu of German-Austrian food that is sehr gut.

“The whole purpose of this building is to maintain our heritage,” said Belay, whose parents left the once Austrian-owned Gottschee region. “It’s a very homey atmosphere and we keep all the traditions alive here.”

Other German bars in the area to watch the game include: Zum Stammtisch and Celtic Gasthau on Myrtle Avenue, and Manor Oktoberfest on Cooper Avenue.

“This is definitely the area for German fans to hang out,” Belay said. “But we won’t be mean to the other side.”

 

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Queens: Your best destination for the World Cup


| editorial@queenscourier.com

SoccerBallFlagsHC1306_X_300_C_Y

JONATHAN WHITE

Soccer, or football as it’s known everywhere but in the U.S., is the world’s favorite sport — and every four years the planet is transfixed as the top national teams from around the world gather to crown a champion at soccer’s World Cup. 2014 is a World Cup year, and this year the month-long, 32-team competition will take place in Brazil starting Thursday.

With major network and cable operators looking to cash in on global soccer’s booming popularity here, television coverage will be ubiquitous, and you’ll be able to watch every game from the comfort of your own home (or at any bar, restaurant or hair salon with a TV, for that matter). But with the diversity and sheer size of New York’s international communities, the city offers even the most casual soccer fan a lot more than just a slew of accessible places to watch games. In fact, if you’re looking to get the full global flavor of the competition there is probably no better place in the world to watch the Cup, outside of the stadiums themselves in Brazil, than right here. And nowhere in New York City will you find better home-cooked soccer fever than in Queens, the diversity capital of the world.

Neighborhoods like Astoria, Corona and Jackson Heights, home to communities with some of the richest soccer traditions on the planet, will be a sea of national shirts and a global street party during the World Cup. And throughout the borough there will be any number of bars and restaurants filled with folks from every country in the competition, and those who love them, faithfully recreating the particular soccer mania of wherever “home” is.

In addition, Queens is also home to the oldest, biggest and some of the best soccer-watching spots the entire City has to offer — including beach bars that if you squint hard enough, just might make you think you’re actually in Rio itself. So buy your flag-capes, check out the list of teams and places here, and draw up your itinerary for where in Queens you’re going to watch the games you most want to see.

Algeria
The eastern part of Steinway Boulevard in Astoria has a large and vibrant North African population that includes one of the largest Algerian communities in the country — and soccer fans who come out in droves for big games. Tiny Caffe Borbone (25-07 Steinway/718-777-1023) is one spot many Algerian fans traditionally gather.

Argentina
As one of the tournament favorites, Argentina’s games and their star Lionel Messi will be closely watched everywhere. For the full-bore Argentine experience, however, head to La Esquina Criolla (94-67 Corona Ave./718-699-5579) or El Gauchito (94-60 Corona Ave./718-271-8198), two traditional Argentine steakhouses across the street from each other in this Argentina/Uruguay section of Corona, and Boca Juniors (81-08 Queens Blvd./718-429-2077) in Elmhurst — another steakhouse dedicated to all things related to Boca, one of Argentina’s biggest soccer clubs, and Maradona, Boca’s most famous player.

Bosnia-Herzegovina
Bosnia-Herzegovina put up the best record in its World Cup qualifying group and featured two of the top four scorers in all of European qualifying — all while qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in its history as a country. No doubt their fans gathering at cozy Sheher Restaurant (28-51 42nd St./347-484-4045) and tiny Cevabdzinica Sarajevo (37-18 34th Ave./718-752-9528) will likely be among the happiest and angst-free of any you’ll see all month.

Brazil
Astoria/Long Island City is also home to the City’s large Brazilian community and fan base for the most famous national team on the planet: no other country has been in every World Cup, no one’s won more World Cups and no country has produced as many great players. The rustic and homey Favela Grill (33-18 28th Ave./718-545-8250) in Astoria and the Rio Grande Churrascaria (39-05 29th St./718-361-1707) in the Long Island City Holiday Inn will be top spots among many in the neighborhood for the Brazil faithful to gather. With the Cup at “home” this year, much popular unhappiness over government handling of the economy, and with Brazil being one of the favorites to take the championship, fan intensity will be enormous.

Cameroon
See Ghana listing.

Chile
Though New York does not have a large Chilean population, supporters of one of South America’s top qualifiers this year regularly gather to take in Chile soccer games at the San Antonio Bakery (36-20 Astoria Blvd./718-777-8733) — one of the few Chilean food outposts in the City.

Colombia
Jackson Heights is the traditional home of the City’s huge Colombian community and the scene of raucous street celebrations when the team is playing well — as it is now. All of the many Colombian bars and restaurants along Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard such as Boulevard Restaurante (82-22 Northern Blvd./718-651-2797) will be filled with fans for Colombia’s games, but you can also check out Basurero (32-17 Steinway/718-545-7077) in polyglot Astoria for its spacious interior and wild, soccer- and flea market-themed décor.

Croatia
Despite the country’s small size, a number of Europe’s top players always seem to be Croatian, and this World Cup year is no exception, with top Croatian players for Champions League winners Real Madrid and Bayern Munich leading the national team charge. You can join the vibrant fans of the decidedly sports-centric nation, well-represented in Astoria and Woodside, at both stylish Veslo restaurant (32-11 Broadway/718-728-0549) and at bare-bones Scorpio Café (35-15 Broadway/956-8233) as they cheer on their team.

England
Eleventh-ranked England displayed excellent form in qualifying for the World Cup, topping their group. They are now however faced with the unlovely necessity of beating sixth-ranked Uruguay and ninth-ranked Italy in order to ensure they advance to the next stage in Brazil. Head over to top sports venue Bar 43 (43-06 43rd St./718-361-3090) in Sunnyside to connect with the many supporters here who will be working overtime to will England through this minefield alive.

Ecuador
Any number of Ecuadoran spots also line Roosevelt and 37th avenues in Jackson Heights, and they, too, will be packed with hopeful fans from the neighborhood’s substantial Ecuadoran population. One place sure to draw a crowd is spacious, upscale-rustic Barzola restaurant (92-12 37th Ave./718-205-6900).

France
The folks at 1682 French Louisiana restaurant (48-19 Vernon Blvd./347-738-4921), a French/Creole spot in Long Island City, will be looking to draw fans of “Les Bleus,” as the French national team is called, from the French eating establishments and other small businesses nearby as the team tries to capitalize on the talent of the many top European players in their squad and to erase the memory of the French team’s miserable 2010 World Cup performance.

Germany
Queens’ old and well-established German community has plenty to cheer about this year as the traditional powerhouse has also been tapped by many to win it all. Hordes of Germany fans always gather at Zum Stammtisch (69-46 Myrtle Ave./718-386-3014), a full-on Bavarian hunting lodge-style restaurant serving top traditional German fare in Glendale, a neighborhood with sizable German, Eastern European and generally soccer-centric populations. Recently opened Max Bratwurst und Bier (47-02 30th Ave./718-777-1635) in Astoria offers another Germany alternative. Loyalty conflicts will likely be severe at these venues, though, with Germany and the U.S. in the same playoff group.

Ghana, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon
The Jamaica neighborhood is home to a sizable African community, and Mataheko (144-07 Jamaica Ave./718-739-3980) is a popular pan-African eatery, party place, and game-watching locale — particularly for soccer fans from the first three countries listed here. All four countries’ teams are led by stars for big-name European club teams, so fans will undoubtedly be out in force. Another reason interest should run high at Mataheko is that Ghana knocked the US out of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups — and the two teams are in the same playoff group and facing each other again in their first games in Brazil on Monday, June 16. Hold on to your hat…

Greece
Astoria is also home to the City’s large Greek population, and all the many Greek restaurants in the area will be hosting the Greek team’s traditional crowds of raucous supporters. One location favored by fans for its spaciousness and extensive outdoor seating is the Athens Café (32-07 30th Ave./718-626-2164).

Italy
Opportunities to root for Italy’s national team, the “Azzuri,” are everywhere given the number of pizza parlors and Italian restaurants in every neighborhood. In addition, every “favorite’s” fans will be watching them and their games carefully: Italy’s won the second most championships after Brazil because they usually manage to marshal their talent to emerge as one of the most dangerous teams at any World Cup. Head over to Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001), described in detail in The Beer Gardens section below, to see if they can emerge from the “group of death” they’re in with England and Uruguay.

Ivory Coast
See Ghana listing.

Korea
This is Korea’s eighth consecutive World Cup appearance, and you’ll find the immensely proud Korean community in Flushing and Bayside out in numbers at any of the myriad Korean sports bars and restaurants throughout the area. You also may want to head to the massive Kum Gang San restaurant (138-28 Northern Blvd./718-461-0909), which will be featuring Korea games on a giant screen in one of their banquet halls.

Mexico
With Mexican restaurants and stores everywhere, it will be easy to connect with fans of the national team, “El Tri.” For a more comprehensive experience, however, head to Corona or Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights where Coatzingo (79-11 Roosevelt Ave./718-424-7272) or Pico de Gallo (82-12 Roosevelt Ave./639-0808) among others are sure to draw crowds for games. You might also want to try Casa Enrique (5-48 49th Ave./347-448-6040), a refined, mod cantina in Long Island City, where the focus will also be on willing the Mexican team out of its recent mediocre form.

Nigeria
See Ghana listing.

Portugal
Newark and Mineola aren’t the only places in the metro area with Portuguese communities and their serious soccer fans. Jamaica has them both, too — and Portugal fans from all around will rally at O Lavrador (138-40 101st Ave./718-526-1526) and A Churrasceira (95-29 Sutphin Blvd./718-523-5293) for top-notch Portuguese home cooking and to watch Europe’s 2014 top player, award-winner Christiano Ronaldo, lead Portugal to hoped-for glory. O Lavrador is also hosting a series of traditional St. John’s Festival events the weekend that Portugal plays the U.S. (Sunday, June 22), so this place could be a tough environment if you’re conflicted about your loyalties! Also note that A Churrasceira has a convenient parking lot across the street from the restaurant.

Russia
Though the Russian team doesn’t feature any immediately recognizable stars, this group is no joke: they finished on top of their qualifying group — above Portugal, the world’s third-ranked team — while allowing one of the least number of goals scored against them throughout the entire qualification round in Europe. Bear (12-14 31st Ave./917-396-4939), a newish and sparkling bar/restaurant featuring locavore renditions of classic and new wave Russian food, draws a crowd of Russian nationals and others who will be gathering in force and rooting that the team can continue their good form and give them something bigger than a solid first round performance to celebrate.

Spain
A large Spanish population also has roots in Astoria. As winners of the 2010 World Cup and the current top-ranked team in the world, expectations for the Spanish team are also huge. If you don’t have any friends who can get you into Casa Galicia, a private social club that’s also a great place to watch Spanish games, head to La Rioja (33-05 Broadway/718-932-0101) for excellent tapas and a good crowd of Spain supporters.

Uruguay
Uruguay finished in fourth place at the last World Cup, led by the top goal-scorer in the English Premier League, Luis Suarez, and by some measures they have only gotten stronger since then. On the other hand, they are also in the nightmare “group of death” with England and Italy here in 2014. You can join the crowd of Jackson Heights-based Uruguay fans at La Gran Uruguaya (85-06 37th Ave./718-505-0404) and Chivito d’Oro (84-02 37th Ave./718-424-0600), both excellent Uruguayan takes on the South American steakhouse.

United States
U.S. supporters will be out at any venue not specifically tied to another national team — and there will likely be plenty even at these spots. Top venues will likely be sports cafés Bar 43 (43-06 43rd St./718-361-3090) in Sunnyside, Twist and Smash’d (34-02 Steinway/718-806-1542), along with Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001), described in detail below.

Other noteworthy venues — only in Queens

The Beer Gardens
In addition to the venues described above oriented toward specific teams, Queens boasts some of the best “non-denominational” World Cup viewing options in the City. If the Czech Republic or Slovakia were at the World Cup this year then Bohemian Hall (29-19 24th Ave./718-274-4925) would not be in this list — but they’re not, so it is. This beautiful and massive outdoor elm-shaded beer garden, once one of hundreds here, is the City’s oldest and the inspiration for the recent rediscovery of the beer garden tradition in the City. With burgers, wurst and other classic beer garden fare on the menu, this is also a great place to watch the World Cup.

One of the new venues inspired by Bohemian Hall is Studio Square (33-35 36th St./718-383-1001) — an even more massive modern open-air beer garden specifically conceived with major event viewing in mind: there’s a 160-square-foot LED screen in the main courtyard, multiple screens on the surrounding open-air mezzanine and in the interior spaces, and seating for 1,200 with overall capacity for over 2,000. It’s like being at a World Cup fan-fest with picnic tables. The atmosphere is unequalled, and it’s a favorite destination for every team’s fans from across the City.

The Beach
Pretend you’re at a bar in Ipanema watching the games at the beach in Rockaway. Rockaway is a first-class beach, and great new concessions have appeared on the boardwalk as Rockaway has become an increasingly hip destination over the last several years. With the concessions rebuilt post-Sandy, the food spots at Beach 97th and Beach 106th are now also getting big new flat-screen TVs in anticipation of the World Cup. The games will also be on at the venerable Bungalow Bar and Restaurant (377 Beach 92nd/718-945-2100), which features a big backyard and deck, and an outdoor bar right on the sparkling waters of Jamaica Bay. World Cup on the beach and the bay? Now that sounds like a great way to spend a summer day in the City!

The Views
Everyone also knows that the best views of the Manhattan skyline are in Queens — and if it’s spectacular views you want as a backdrop to your World Cup soccer, you even have great up-close and panoramic options to choose from. Rooftop restaurant and lounge Penthouse 808 at Ravel Hotel (8-08 Queens Plaza South/718-289-6118), right on the East River next to the Queensboro Bridge, is serving up additional TVs for the World Cup to complement its pan-Asian cuisine. And for that panoramic Emerald City/Wizard of Oz look, be sure to check out the hyper-slick bar and lounge atop the brand-new Flushing hotel The One (137-72 Northern Blvd./718-886-3555). Both venues are planning special World Cup events as well.

 

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Astoria resident creates social platform to connect fans in time for World Cup


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Images Courtesy Fanspectrum


Next week fans won’t have to make the trip down to Brazil in order to cheer on their favorite teams in the FIFA World Cup; instead, their support will just be one click away.

Sports fan, former athlete and Astoria resident Vibor Cilic is expected to launch a new social platform called Fanspectrum, which will allow fans to show their support, regardless of their location, during the big games and also interact with other soccer enthusiasts.

“I would watch sports, I would watch my favorite team – Barcelona – and I would always ask myself, how do I connect with other fans?” said Cilic, who came up with the idea for Fanspectrum while watching games at Scorpio Cafe & Bar in Astoria. “How do you expand that real stadium into a global stadium?”

Fanspectrum, which will be available for free on the iPhone, Android and at www.fanspectrum.com, will have four features fans can access once they create an account and choose their favorite team.

The first core feature is called a “Fan Battle” where supporters of one team go against those of another and see which has the largest support. In this feature, the user will be able to enter a stream of social media posts for that specific match in which they have entered. The user will be able to post comments, videos and pictures, answer polls, create questions and comment.

In regards to the World Cup, fans will be able to access this feature during specific matches.

“Not everybody can make it to Brazil,” Cilic said. “We offer them a solution, for every fan’s voice to be heard, no matter where they are and what they do.”

Another feature is called a “Fan Map” where users will be able to pinpoint the locations of fans. According to Cilic, this will allow users to see where the larger groups of fans are coming from.

Fanspectrum will also have a Leaderboard which ranks the best fans for a specific team and time period. In this feature, the more fans a user invites, the higher they reach on the board.

The last feature is known as a “Fan Army,” which Cilic says works like a Facebook group but beyond just hitting the “like” button, allowing more user interaction.

“What we want to provide is that real-time engagement and real fans supporting their teams,” said Cilic, who hopes as the social platform becomes more known, fans will be able to receive physical rewards. “The whole point is for fans to be recognized as leaders and for us in the longer term to reward the fans.”

Once it officially launches, Fanspectrum will start with soccer fans, mainly focusing on the World Cup games. However, Cilic hopes to move the social platform forward in order for it to be available for fans of all different sports.

 

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Queens dogs to raise paws for favorite teams in World Cup


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Mauricio Hernandez


This year’s FIFA World Cup is receiving a ‘pawsitive’ reaction from four-legged fans throughout the borough.

Dog owners and their pets will be able to show their love for their favorite soccer teams Saturday in Jackson Heights, just less than two weeks before the big games kick off in Brazil, during an event called “Mi Mascota, Mi Seleccion,” translated to “My Pet, My Team.”

During the event, which will take place from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at the garden of St. Marks Church at 33-50 82nd St., both owners and dogs are asked to come dressed in their favorite team’s colors. The day will feature food and treats for dogs, a trainer, entertainment for the whole family and contests for both pets and their owners.

“It looks like we are going to have a large participation of Colombian, Mexican and Ecuadorian pets, which are the majority in Corona, Jackson Heights and Woodside in Queens,” organizer Mauricio Hernandez said in Spanish.

One of the sponsors, who will also be selling dog jerseys at Saturday’s event, is Dalila’s Petwear located at 90-12 37th Ave. in Jackson Heights. Some of the national team jerseys in doggie sizes include the United States, Colombia, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and many others.

“I’m very excited,” said Miguel Rodriguez, owner of Dalila’s Petwear. “This idea came out last year. It’s amazing.”

Proceeds from “My Pet, My Team” will go toward St. Mark’s Church, which recently had to deal with a flooded basement.

After the event, photos of the best-dressed pets will be available on www.MyPetMyTeam.com. For more information call 718-644-7072 or 347-447-4433. To purchase a jersey click here.

 

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Former international soccer player to host meet and greet at Queens Center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Courtesy Verizon Wireless

With the FIFA World Cup about only a month away, soccer fans will be able to get a taste of the sport at Queens Center this weekend.

In preparation for the big games being held from June 12 to July 13 in Brazil, Verizon is hosting five shopping mall “Estadio Verizon” (Verizon Stadium) events for fans. The events will feature interactive soccer games, a customized stadium scoreboard, trivia games and a soccer-themed Plinko board to win prizes.

This Saturday, former Colombian national team captain and Major League Soccer player Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama will be at Queens Center doing a meet and greet with fans from 4 to 6 p.m.

Between noon and 6 p.m. this weekend, visitors at the Elmhurst mall will be able to learn about Verizon’s video offerings including its “La Connexion” and Spanish Language Packages that offer customized content for Hispanics and others who seek more Spanish-language programming.

Also, throughout the weekend and in honor of Mother’s Day, visitors at Queens Center will be able to make a free international call to their moms, using the latest Verizon Wireless mobile devices.

 

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Middle Village-based Gottschee Soccer Club needs room to play


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Miguel Brunengo

The legendary Middle Village-based Blau Weiss Gottschee Soccer Club is so popular it’s literally outgrown the borough.

The soccer club, which remains one of the shining examples of high-level urban athletic competition, has so many players that it utilizes a scattered combination of public fields across the city and has gotten to a point where the league needs to turn young soccer hopefuls away.

The team’s main field is Brennan Field in Juniper Valley Park, but they also travel to practice at Randall’s Island, located between Manhattan and Queens in the East River, and they rent space for games at Aviator Field Sports & Events Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, to name a few locations.

“We’ve got [players] spread like seeds in the wind,” said Timon Kalpaxis, a youth coordinator. “Some guys have to schlep up to Randal’s Island just to train.”

The club was created in 1951 by Gottscheer immigrants, an ethnic German-speaking people of from what is now south central Slovenia.

A few decades ago a boom of Hispanic immigrants began entering the club. And as soccer’s popularity began to grow recently in the United States, more and more players have been coming to Gottschee.

The club currently has 30 registered teams in various age and skill divisions, numerous intramural programs and free clinics. During warm months it can accumulate nearly 1,000 players combined, sometimes from the Bronx, Long Island and even New Jersey.

Organizers want more Queens field space so their players can play at a centralized location.

“We not looking for a huge bite of the apple, we’re just looking for a nibble,” Kalpaxis said.

In searching for new fields to expand, Gottschee organizers have identified Grover Cleveland High School Athletic Field near Seneca Avenue and Deklab Avenue as a great location. The field is regulation size and has lights, so night practices and games would be possible.

The Department of Education (DOE) is currently revitalizing that particular soccer field.

“We are currently in the early stages of design with topographic surveys and storm system investigations underway,” said DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg. “Construction duration will be determined after the surveys and investigations are complete.”

The soccer club has reached out for support from local leaders and politicians to help get access to it when it is completed.

“We are always open to working with them and supporting them,” said a spokesperson from Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley’s office. “We are very supportive of sports and culture programs that serve kids in the district.”

Gottschee attracts much attention from many top Division I schools.

From 2005 to 2012 more than 80 Gottschee players received scholarships to play soccer at well-known universities, including the University of Michigan, Duke, Villanova, Princeton, St. John’s, Holy Cross and Rutgers, just to name a few.

Coordinators said even with the Grover Cleveland field, their problem is part of a fundamental issue of lack of ball fields in the city.

“We lament the fact that we got kids running around getting into trouble, but what are we giving them,” Kalpaxis asked. “Where is the infrastructure for these kids?”

 

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Mulligan’s golden goal puts No. 23 Red Storm pass No. 5 Akron


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of St. John's Athletic Communications

With a penalty kick lined up, the game rested on St. John’s forward Jimmy Mulligan’s foot.

Pressure poured in as the intense match, in which both teams just scored one goal apiece in 90 minutes of regulation and more than 15 minutes in overtime and had seven yellow cards handed out, came down to just one kick.

A little nervous, Mulligan was brimming with confidence, having much experience with this situation in practice. But what threw him off was the crowd’s anxiety. Approximately 1,533 Red Storm fans came to a silence the senior forward set-up for the kick.

“When they went quiet I got even more nervous,” he said.

Mulligan approached slowly, looked up quickly to see which way the goalie was leaning and then blasted the ball in the opposite direction for the golden goal and the 2-1 victory over No. 5 University of Akron on Friday night. Following the score the Johnny faithful started to roar again.

With the victory the No. 23 Red Storm is now 2-1 for the season and earned their first win against a ranked-team. “I was pretty confident, I was thinking I was going to bury it and get this win for the team,” Mulligan said about the kick.

For the first 70 minutes both sides struggled for control. In the first half Akron outshot the Johnnies 5-1, but the Red Storm took the lead in corner kicks, 2-0.

It didn’t look like either would score, until Eric Stevenson powered a goal from about 20 yards out in the 71st minute for the Zips, assisted by Ismail Seremba.

The goal came as a sudden shock, but the Johnnies responded quickly. About three minutes later, Red Storm sophomore Josh Godec beat a defender and scored from about five yards of the goal after a cross pass from teammate Jelani Williams.

“I knew I just had to get across that man, I saw the ball coming in and I was like I’m going to get there,” Godec said. “I’m just lucky it went in.”

It was a significant moment for Godec, who red shirted his first year and didn’t play a game last year, because it was his first college goal.

“It’s amazing to see the hard work finally paying off,” he said.

The Johnnies will host Pennsylvania State University in their next match on Sunday.

 

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Pols raise concerns over planned Cosmos soccer stadium near Queens border


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of the New York Cosmos

Some politicians feel the New York Cosmos need to do everything they can to win the community.

The soccer club, which restarted recently after not playing a game in nearly three decades, is planning to construct a 25,000 seat stadium in Elmont’s Belmont Park near the Queens and Nassau border. The team currently plays at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium in Long Island.

The project has come under direct fire by Carrié Solages, a legislator in Nassau County, while on the Queens side Councilmember Leroy Comrie has brought up potential community concerns, such as increased traffic, noise and lights.

“It’s a residential community and you can understand that people want to keep it that way,” Comrie said.

The team has started to give back to the community through various partnerships, including the American Cancer Society, Long Island City YMCA and New York Hospital Queens.

The Cosmos began hosting a series of “Back to School” soccer clinics around New York for children between the ages of seven and 14. There will be four clinics around the city and Long Island this month. Cosmos players and coaches will interact directly with children at the clinics to teach them the fundamentals.

“As a native New Yorker, being able to play for the Cosmos is a dream come true, and it’s made even more special when we get to go into the community and work directly with the next generation of American soccer stars,” said Carlos Mendes, Cosmos defender and team captain.

Comrie is not against the stadium as he was with Major League Soccer (MLS) trying to put a similar-sized venue in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park for the New York City Football Club because that project called for taking land from the park. But he thinks Belmont could be a “suitable” location for a soccer stadium.

The councilmember will gauge concerns from the community through future meetings.

The Cosmos’ plan for the stadium is still in the early stages as they have only made a proposal for the land and early renderings. A team representative said the organization is willing to work with the community to address any future concerns that they may have.

“The New York Cosmos have a strong belief in social responsibility and the desire to make a positive impact,” a representative said. “We feel that we have an obligation to be a leader in the community and we’ve shown that through our actions.”

 

Additional reporting by Carlos Montanez 

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Cosmos team up with NY Hospital Queens to educate about sports injuries


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy New York Hospital Queens

CARLOS MONTANEZ

New York Hospital Queens (NYHQ) teamed up with the New York Cosmos to educate players, coaches and parents about sports injuries to ensure young players are safe on the field.

Players and coaches were on hand for a press conference held at NYHQ on August 19 to officially announce this, and that NYHQ will be the official hospital of the rebooted Cosmos franchise.

“[The goal is to] play for a long time, play safe and enjoy sports,” said Dr. Alexander Golant, who specializes in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine for NYHQ.

The Cosmos, which played their first professional game since 1985 on August 3, and NYHQ are planning to spread awareness about sports injuries to athletes around the borough with wellness clinics in the fall.

At the clinics athletes, parents, coaches and trainers will learn about certain injuries and how to prevent them. Dates and times for the clinics have yet to be announced.

As a part of being the official hospital of the Cosmos, NYHQ will have direct involvement with the team as well. The hospital will provide game day physician coverage for home and away games and have detailed plans to take care of any type of medical issue that may come about during a game.

“The doctors have been great,” said Carlos Mendes, Cosmos defender and native New Yorker. “They have been [checking in] with us on a weekly and early basis.”

The medical attention isn’t just special to the soccer club. The hospital believes it gives its patients the same amount of care as it does for the Cosmos, according to Dr. Justin Classie, director of sports medicine for NYHQ.

“We treat everyone as a professional athlete,” Classie said. “Our goal is keeping everyone active, regardless of their level of competition.”

 

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Two Queens soccer players signed to Cosmos


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos By Angy Altamirano

David Diosa and Sebastián Guenzatti are kicking their way to the top, as both were signed to be part of the returning New York Cosmos.

The Cosmos, which were once based in New York and featured the likes of famed soccer player Pelé, are making a comeback to the North American Soccer League this August.

On the roster, fans will find Diosa, 20, from Jackson Heights and Guenzatti, 22, from College Point.

Colombian-born Diosa started playing soccer at age 4 and came to the United States when he was 10. He played soccer in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on a team called Bolaños and went on to play with other local teams. Diosa also shone bright as he helped Martin Luther King High School’s soccer team win the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) soccer championship four years in a row.

Diosa later became part of the Cosmos youth academy, where he played for the under-18 and under-23 teams.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “I was waiting for this moment since the academy, so I feel glad to play here, feel honored to play here, to be part of the team and to be part of the legendary club.”

Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese finds it rewarding to have a player like Diosa on the team. Savarese believes the acquisition shows the work that went into the academy paid off.

“Diosa has a great passion for the game, great commitment,” he said. “He has been doing great and he has been growing very rapidly and developing in his game to be a player that can bring things that we don’t have.”

Guenzatti, who began playing soccer at age 4 in Uruguay, caught Savarese’s eye when he played for him at another local academy in the under-17 and under-18 teams.

“He was always a player that I liked. I felt that he had the potential to become a good pro,” said Savarese. “I felt that it was the right time for him to be part of this.”

After playing soccer for Francis Lewis High School for four years, Guenzatti went on to play for two Uruguayan teams.

Savarese then gave him a call to return to New York and try out for the Cosmos.

“I got a little experience over there and now coming here and playing with players I used to see on T.V. and I used to follow – it feels good,” said Guenzatti.

For both Diosa and Guenzatti, it is still surreal to be playing on the same team with players they watched on television for years. But they hope to learn from other teammates and grow together. Both are also thankful to their families.

“I will just work hard [and] listen to the people who are older than me — that have more experience — and get more experience out of this, too,” said Guenzatti.

The Cosmos’ home opener is on August 3 against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium.

 

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Residents march against MLS stadium plans


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

Less than a week after Major League Soccer (MLS) held meetings on consecutive days regarding its planned stadium for Queens, residents opposed to the project took to the streets to march against it.

“Parkland is sacred,” said State Senator Tony Avella. “And it shouldn’t be taken away for a money-making proposition.”

Avella, also a candidate for borough president, and Councilmember Julissa Ferreras headlined the protest march on Sunday, December 9.

Two other massive projects — expansion at Willets Point and at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center — begin at the same time a new soccer stadium would be built. Avella said that would create gridlock and make access for parkgoers nearly impossible.

“You not only have the discussion about a soccer stadium,” Avella said. “You also have the tennis stadium, the tennis association that wants to expand, and you have Willets Point — all of these projects supposedly are going to be done at the same time.”

Ferreras said the project could not move forward without bringing the community into play. The future of Flushing Meadows needed to reflect the community, she said, and what it needs regarding greenspace.

“We cannot make any deals behind closed doors,” Ferreras said. “We cannot have such an important part of our community — the lungs of our community — be negotiated in City Hall. This is important for our community; I cannot be supportive of a project that says it’s at the finish line, when we are only at the beginning.”

Luis Gonzalez, a member of advocacy group Make the Road New York, said that while the residents around the park love to use its amenities to play soccer, that does not mean the community, as a whole, wants to have a stadium in the middle of open space.

“I play soccer in the park,” he said. “Our community loves soccer. But that doesn’t mean we want a soccer stadium right in the middle of the park. The kids in our community desperately need open space to exercise.”

MLS pitches Queens soccer stadium to community


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Major League Soccer

As most of the 500-plus inside the Queens Theater cheered for a new soccer team to play just yards away, a small crowd gathered in the lobby with signs that contrasted the ones ushers offered when walking in.

A town hall meeting on Tuesday, December 3 hosted by Major League Soccer (MLS) to inform the community of its plans to build a 25,000 seat stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park over what is currently the Fountain of Planets.

“Our goal is to be one of the top soccer leagues in the world by 2022,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “This team and this stadium will help us achieve that. You can’t be a dominate soccer league without having a dominate team in the largest, and most important city in the world.”

The theater itself was filled mostly with soccer supporters who wanted to see MLS’ potential 20th team call Queens its home. In between translations or speakers, cheers could be heard such as “build it, baby.”

A highlight of Garber’s presentation was the support to local small businesses surrounding the park and fuel the already bulging soccer culture that’s developed in the borough.

More than 700 businesses had signed letters of support of the stadium, Garber said. He also likened a tradition by fans of the Seattle Sounders FC, who will often march to the stadium and stop at local businesses on the way.

The league has set out to speak to communities throughout the borough — particularly those that surround the park — including a presentation to the Queens Borough Board the night before. The questions asked by the audience focused on getting jobs at the arena, who would own the new team and where the displaced parkland would go.

State Senator Jose Peralta voiced his support for the project and promised to keep the league accountable for the promises attached to the stadium.

“Obviously, there’s a lot to like about MLS’ proposal,” he said. “But as I have said to them before, and I will say to MLS again tonight, we’re going to hold your feet to the fire.” But while he promised to ensure the lost parkland would be replaced, “let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot. Let’s recognize a good deal for what it is and work together to ensure that all the parties hold up their end of the agreement.”

Those waiting in the lobby, however, thought any kind of deal is wrong and replaced greenspace would never redeem that which is lost. The meeting, some added, was more of a rally for bringing pro soccer to Queens instead of an actual town hall.

“This is a promotional event for Major League Soccer,” said Donovan Finn, a member of the Jackson Heights Green Alliance. “I guess they can call it whatever they want, but it’s not the transparent process that Commissioner Garber was talking about during his presentation.”

Only about two of the projected 10 to 13 acres eaten up in the project would be from grassy areas in the park, according to MLS officials. The rest, mainly concrete walkways and the fountain itself, has been considered a closed off and under used part of the borough’s largest park.

NYC Park Advocates President Geoffrey Croft doesn’t think the designated site is a boondock patch of park, and alleged the league was making claims to sway public interest toward the stadium.

Several attendees against the stadium alleged organizers opted to have them sit in another room with the meeting broadcasted into the it. Finn, who he arrived at 7 p.m. just as the meeting was starting, said he was told that since he did not have a reserved seat, he would have to sit in the lower room and watch from there.

“I came in right at 7 o’clock and I was asked if I had a reserved seat,” she said. “And I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ then they said, ‘You’re in the basement.’”

This was not the case, however, and the league had opened the room to everyone, said MLS spokesperson Risa Heller. The league had widely advertised the meeting in the two weeks leading up, she said, and tried to get the word out through mass and social media.

“Any suggestion that our town hall wasn’t open to the public is sour grapes,” she said. “This was a come one, come all event.”