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The Empire State Building was a beckoning beacon to me, visible from the bedroom window of the apartment digs we had in New York. Today I was heading there. At the foot of the Empire State Building, just across the road, is a place called “Legends Bar ‘n Grill”. This bar has spawned a sub-bar downstairs called the “Football Factory”. This was my actual destination: to catch up with a guy called Jason Becker who fronts the New York Foxes, the local Leicester City fan club. It was Saturday lunchtime and The Factory were showing the Manchester United/Leicester City game live on the big screens at this bar.

I’d caught wind of the New York Foxes via Facebook and communicated with Jason prior to my trip. Social media may be a Bad Word (or two words) in the eyes of some but there’s no doubt it has made the world a smaller place. It was a great help in giving me this connection. Smartphones are the key. They make the social media world go round. So nowadays the football fraternity is truly just a global village. Facebook, Twitter and email are a boon to both football fans and travellers.

Being adrift from New Zealand for a week or two has not stopped me from keeping up with the New Zealand footie scene. For example, in our rented Williamsburg loft apartment the evening before, I was avidly following the fortunes of our Hamilton Wanderers lads as they battled the odds to remain in the NRFL Premiership.

Friday in New York was Saturday afternoon in New Zealand. My phone beeped regularly with updates. Firstly relegation rivals Forrest Hill fell behind to Waitakere, then conceded another, 0-2. Meanwhile Wanderers went 1-0 up against Glenfield. Then Glenfield equalised. Meanwhile bottom team Manurewa were somehow leading 3 Kings 3-0. What?

In the 71st minute Wanderers went 2-1 up and Forrest Hill pulled one back, 1-2, in their game. However Wanderers scored a third (and a hat trick to Super-Dave Samson) to close the game out 3-1, you beauties! Forrest Hill couldn’t find an equaliser in their match so they slipped to two points behind Wanderers with only one game left for each team. Things are suddenly looking up. In the other game already-relegated Manurewa had suddenly conceded three (remember they were three up) then scored a late winner in a 4-3 thriller.

Then the Twitterverse told me that our local rivals Melville had missed promotion despite scoring around 20,000 goals this term. “Oh dear, how sad, never mind.” YouTube showed me the goals in the Wanderers game and I then read the report in the newspaper on-line. My smartphone was working overtime.

And it was via Facebook this weekend that I learnt Andrew Blake has been signed up by Hibernian, so he’s off to Scotland. I contacted Andrew, congratulated him and suggested he learn the words to ‘Sunshine on Leith’, the wonderful theme song of the Edinburgh team.

So despite the protestations of a few Luddites (mainly a few mates of my vintage) it’s the world of the interweb and it’s your loss if you don’t embrace it.

Anyway back to New York. I had coerced my daughter Danica into wearing a Leicester NZ shirt (copyright, me) and coming to the game. The underground bar was heaving with football fans, mostly wearing their team colours. The Factory show most Premiership games. I spoke to a Newcastle supporter at the bar. He was very happy after their three nil win which just concluded. He even offered to shout me a beer, “but not a Newcastle Brown as it’s rubbish, no one in Newcastle actually drinks the stuff”

I met another Leicester fan, Tom, who was in New York with his wife, Karen. He had come over from the UK for the weekend and like me, had heard about the bar. Despite it being their 10 year wedding anniversary he was keen to get his football fix. Brave guy. Danica conversed with Karen while Tom and I discussed the important things of the day. Such as what the team line up will be, will Grey get a run and who makes the best pies in Leicestershire.

The rest of the Leicester contingent sloped in, including Jason, my contact. He is an organised chap and has designed and commissioned a huge “New York Foxes” flag which hangs in the bar every game-day. Other supporters from other clubs likewise have done the same. Jason has also teed up other city memorabilia which is permanently displayed in the bar. He is a fellow who clearly gets things done. I asked how he became a Leicester supporter. “Back in the 90’s, one of our great US players, goal keeper Kasey Keller, signed for Leicester. That was the start….”

Becker had a bag full of NY Foxes scarves so I purchased one as a memento. I also met Amit Chaugan who is a comic book writer and runs a Leicester podcast with Jason. Here’s a sample.

After securing a beer and a viewing position we all settled back to watch the match. In last year’s corresponding fixture City were 4-0 down at half time and it was feared a repeat might be in the offing as United have started the season brightly. But this time it was a 0-0 halftime score line, and the mood of the City faithful imperceptibly became both more nervous and more hopeful. Especially when Schmeichel pulled off a stunning penalty save to deny United. {Trivia buffs alert. Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel (1) has now saved more Premier League penalties at Old Trafford than his dad, Peter Schmeichel (0). To be fair, Peter playing for United only ever faced three penalties, mainly because a referee giving penalties against United at Old Trafford is as rare as a pygmy three toed Sloth}

But as usual, the Red Devils snatched a couple of fairly late goals to snare the three points, curse it and the hope of a precious point vanished as quickly as my wad of US dollars in New York.

Despite the outcome, led by Becker, the Leicester lot were lively, singing, laughing and chanting. In contrast the Manchester United fans at the bar were noticeably quiet even after knocking in a couple of goals. A Leeds versus Nottingham Forest game was in full flight in an adjoining part of the bar and the Leeds fans likewise were very rowdy as their lads, Chris Woods-less and all, were leading 2-0. Danica had met a friend of hers, Vinita, who is a New Yorker: they sat at the back clearly amused at the strange antics of these football nutters.

After the game it was handshakes and commiserations all round (Leicester fans are generally magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat- we have to be). Final beers were downed and a few Brazilian fans were drifting in, singing and banging drums. They had a game to watch now. Before leaving Jason introduced me to the manager and the inspiration behind the bar, a guy named Jack. What a splendid job he has done with the Football Factory. It’s right up there, in my estimation, as a New York must-visit.

And speaking of must-visits. After losing a game like that I said to Danica there’s only way to go, that’s up. So we crossed the road and joined the queue waiting to ascend the Empire State Building.

 

Categories: English/UK Football

Rod de Lisle

Waikato based follower of Leicester, Hamilton Wanderers, Allwhites and Phoenix, roughly in that order. I write stuff that I feel I'd like to read myself but there's no accounting for taste, eh? Some of my opinions may even be factually correct, sorry about that.

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