- Posted by Geoff Reid
- On November 6, 2009
- 0 Comments
- Geoff Reid, Giants Stadium
I realize that the last official football match to take place at Giants Stadium was almost two weeks ago between the Red Bulls and Toronto FC, but I still figured Iíd throw my two cents in on what was once a football mecca in this country. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the Meadowlands is very mixed feelings. To a lot of folks from the generation before mine, it was emotional to come to terms with that no more football matches will be played at the stadium. Then on the the other hand, to a lot of die hard Red Bulls/Metrostars fans the day couldnít come soon enough.
My father was a season ticket holder with the New York Cosmos long before I was born, and those were essentially the glory days of the stadium. Everything about the Cosmos worked: the squad made up of galacticos in the biggest media market in the country playing at the new state of the art stadium at the time. Essentially, it was the definition of the Cosmopolitans. If anyone has watched the DVD Once In A Lifetime, the documentary on the club, it shows that the Cosmos were 20 years ahead of itís time. Franz Beckenbauer, also known as the Kaiser, said it best when he was at Bayern Munchen you had nine German players and maybe two foreigners, with the German national team you had 11 German players but with the Cosmos, you had players from all over the world, the same that you see today on the biggest clubs in Europe. And Giants Stadium was fitting for that. Not only did some of the best players to ever grace the pitch play in East Rutherford, but numerous celebrities went to Cosmos matches including Secretary of State at the time Henry Kissinger.
After the demise of the NASL, the beautiful game would not return to Giants Stadium until the 1994 World Cup, 10 years later. The most memorable match of that World Cup in the stadium would have been the 1-0 victory that Ireland managed over Italy. Not just because of the Italians being heavily favored with Roberto Baggio being the best striker in Europe at the time, but the demographics in the New York metropolitan area were made up of a lot of Italian and Irish folks first, second and third generations. Of course it seemed kind of ironic as to how the Azzuri managed to play three of their seven matches in the area that has the biggest Italian population outside of Italy including the semi final against Bulgaria. No doubt if the final would have been at Giants Stadium instead of the Rose Bowl, the Italians probably would have won the tournament.
Finally in 1996, professional football return to Giants Stadium and America after a 12 year hiatus. The first game in Metrostars history drew over 46,000 fans with the Cosmos fresh in the memory of a lot of folks in the area. Roberto Donadoni was on the books of the new club as well as local products Tab Ramos and Tony Meola. With MLSí new rules and regulations, it was impossible for the club or any club in the league to sign top players like the Cosmos did, and although our league is healthier today because of these strict rules and regulations, it ultimately meant filling a stadium the size of this one was going to be impossible. If the club managed to sell out the lower bowl it would have been a massive success. Unfortunately that just hasnít happened on a regular basis.
While their have been plenty of great memories of matches at this stadium, it also has left a black eye on US soccer and MLS in recent years. Part of the responsibility must be placed on the Red Bulls/Metrostars for running the club like a minor league organization in the early years and trying to emulate the Cosmos. However, a lot of the blame must fall on the shoulders of the people who own and operate the stadium: New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA). Basically they treated the club like it was some evil dictator, with security kicking out fans for practically supporting their club. The vision of a sea of red, empty seats has become a familiar site to all fans of the game when watching the Red Bulls play. The only time the NJSEA has managed to make an effort to accommodate football was when Barcelona was in town on their pre-season tours, or another big name. One of the most recent happy memories of the Stadium was when the US national team drew against Argentina 0-0 in the summer of 2008 during a friendly in what was one of the best scoreless draws Iíve ever seen. A new playing surface was put down for that one match.
The one thing we must not forget when thinking about Giants Stadium is that it was built purposefully for the NFL and New York Giants which is why I am not shedding any tears that our sport is done in the stadium. The area is not all that nice to look at if anyoneís been to an event there. Red Bull Arena will be state of the art when itís 100% complete shortly and will be the best stadium in MLS by miles in a much better location for transportation. Of course Iím guessing when the big European giants head over for pre-season tours and play friendlies against the Red Bulls that those matches will be moved to the new Meadowlands Stadium which is being built with our football in mind in hopes of landing the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.
My favorite memory of Giants Stadium? Well Iíve only ever been to two matches there. The first was a friendly between Chelsea and AC Milan in the summer of 2005, and me wearing my Liverpool shirt feeling it was appropriate (got some funny looks from both Milan and Chelsea fans after Liverpool beat both clubs in the Champions League the season before to win the whole thing) was a typical pre-season matchup. The whole bottom bowl and the second section was filled with the upper bowl empty. Still a good draw for a pre-season warm up in the summer heat. The other was the Red Bulls final regular season home match last season against the Columbus Crew where New York won 3-1. It was also the game that Danny Cepero scored that memorable goal. I can tell everyone right now that if it wasnít for the field turf, the ball would not have taken a wicked bounce over the Crewís keeperís head. So for myself, that has to be the most memorable moment. My father however, will tell you otherwise because heís been to a lot more games at Giants Stadium.
To sum up Giants Stadium, when itís full itís beautiful. The trouble is, over the last ten years plus we havenít seen that enough and each year it just got magnified how old and rundown it looked with all those red empty seats. Itís safe to say Iím not particularly sad to see it go. Thanks for the memories, but Iíve already moved on a long time ago.
Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan each week. Feel free to leave him a comment/thought/question/etc. below.