Surprise in the City
For most kids, Memorial Day Weekend involves traveling to soccer tournaments in different states from their own. But, for the two teams practicing on the rooftop soccer field at Pier 40, this was a MDW they will never forget.
As a part of Manchester City’s USA Tour Sergio Aguero, Maicon, Micah Richards, James Milner, Joleon Lescott and Richard Wright showed up to the teams’ practice ready to take on the energetic youngsters. Any complaint of how bad the weather was immediately changed the minute the kids saw Aguero and Maicon step through the fenced-in entrance. After having traveling to two events this week, it was fantastic to see not only how the kids received the players, but also how the players interacted with the kids. As I watched the players, you could tell it was an experience that benefited both youth and City players alike.
At Saturday’s surprise appearance, Richard Wright fielded shots from the young players; Aguero hopped into play in the scrimmage taking place. While Lescott and Richards played a game of “keep away” with the kids, Milner parried shots at any participant willing to stand in net.
Across the other New York City boroughs, fellow City players were surprising youth players at their practices as well. I would have loved to go to each of the surprise appearances throughout the boroughs, but I am not Herminie and couldn’t be in three places at once. But, I would bet they went over just as well as the one in Manhattan did, and I know you’re all jealous, so that’s an added plus ;).
Okay, let’s move to some more of the recent headlines accompanied by quotes from Milner and Richards on those headlines.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, City and the New York Yankees have partnered to establish the 20th MLS team, and the second in NYC, or the area, because “New York” Red Bulls play in New Jersey. This is a great opportunity for City to expand their brand in the United States, and what better place to start than “The Big Apple”? And the players are extremely excited for their club because of the opportunity it will present.
“It’s a beautiful City, and I can see why Manchester City has invested their time and money in putting a team here,” said Micah Richards. James Milner had similar thoughts, “America is a great place, we all love coming here, and the sport is growing here,” said Milner, “I think if they have a team to shout for in New York with a strong connection to City, it is only good for the club.”
Richards went even further to (now get excited fellow Americans) hint at having a future in the States with NYCFC. “Hopefully, in five or six years, when I get into my 30s, I can get to play out here.” Yes, when he said that I had to hold every bit of excitement I had in and continue the interview. Not to toot my own horn, but I believe I executed that flawlessly!
But I digress; both Milner and Richards brought up the growing popularity of soccer (football) in America, when discussing NYCFC and are hopeful that, with time, the popularity will continue to blossom.
After such a long and demanding season you’d expect the players would rather be resting than traveling to America, getting dragged from event to event, all while training and playing. But, the boys were happy to have a chance to play in historic stadiums, even though these are the updated versions of the originals. Players were smiling the whole way through.
“Yeah, really exciting. I follow American sports, and the Yankees are a massive team and the ground looks amazing as well,” said Milner when asked about playing in Yankee Stadium. In the same breath Milner spoke about playing in St. Louis as well “It was great, the other night, in St. Louis just because they are different grounds than we normally play, and it’s great to play in different stadiums.”
International play beings soon and these two games are a chance for the players to keep in form, “With most of us going away with nationals next week, it is important we keep ourselves ready for those games,” said Milner. For those players who are looking to get healthy, especially Richards, they view this as a chance to improve their fitness.
“This season I had a few injuries, I hope to come back strong and hopefully next season I’ll be ready to play,” said Richards. I know I’m not alone when I hope Richards gets his fitness back and that he stays healthy throughout the summer friendlies and qualifiers.
This was truly a rewarding experience, and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of these events. I’ll have a post about my experience up later today. It certainly has paid off to live close to NYC ;). I’ll end this article with a great quote from the end of my interview with Milner. As we were wrapping up, one of the kids came up to James and said “Wait, what’s your name again?!” Kids say the darndest things, right?