Tuesday, May 24

A Scottish-American team helped build soccer in America. Now they are turning professionals | Football

IImmigrants from Scotland came to northern New Jersey in the late 1800s to find work in the giant textile factories and, in their spare time, to play fitba. – or soccer as the locals call it these days. A club known as the Kearny Scots joined the Association’s new National Football League in 1895 and finished second behind a club from nearby Bayonne.

The NAFBL didn’t last long, but the Kearny Scots are still here. The Scots-American Athletic Club was formed in 1931 in the working-class city 14 miles west of Manhattan, and the Kearny Scots won five consecutive American Soccer League championships from 1937 to 1941. The Kearny Scots have played in regional leagues. fans for the last time. 70 years.

But now the Kearny Scots have upped the ante. With the backing of the city and the Scots-American Club, the club has joined the Eastern Premier Soccer League, an elite amateur league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association. The league, part of a system which includes promotion and relegation, had 25 clubs in three conferences in the 2020-21 season.

The Kearny Scots are already training for a 2021-22 season likely to begin in September, with some home games played at the legendary Harvey Field Complex in Kearny. The club has secured corporate sponsors, with the potential to add a few more. The club’s long history has been an important selling point, even for its new manager.

“It’s a story that no one else can tell,” Marin Frasheri-Gjoca, a 34-year-old man who came to the United States from Albania in 2002, tells The Guardian.

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It turns out that the Kearny Scots will be made up of elite area players, mostly in their 20s, who are, like the original Scots, immigrants or first-generation Americans.

“You just see them coming from a different part of the world, from all over the world,” says Frasheri-Gjoca.

Unlike the old days, the newer version of the Kearny Scots won’t play the best teams in the nation; they’re just a few notches from the top and have no immediate or even long-term aspirations of, say, climbing the ladder to Major League Soccer and becoming archrivals of the New York Red Bulls, who play in Harrison, two miles away. .

That would cost millions of dollars, which the Kearny Scots don’t have (a spot in MLS will cost you just north of $ 300 million these days). But the Scots add tradition and history to the foundations of American football. According to the club’s website, Scotland-based Clark Thread Co formed teams in 1883 after opening two factories in the city, and ONT FC (“our new thread”) won the American Football Association cups in 1885. , 1886 and 1887.

“Our roots run deep,” says Andrew Pollock, president of the Scots-American Club and president of the team’s Soccer Operations. He says of Harvey Field: “That’s holy ground.”

Frasheri-Gjoca was going to help coach another EPSL club in the area last season before the coronavirus pandemic thwarted those plans. Frasheri-Gjoca, a youth soccer instructor in North Jersey who was a midfielder at Rutgers-Newark and played professionally in Europe, began looking for other places to form an EPSL club. The Kearny Scots were a lower level club.

“I thought, ‘What better place to do it than the place with all the history in there?’” He says.

Frasheri-Gjoca met with Pollock in October 2020 and moved on in January, too late for the 2020-21 season but with enough time for 2021-22. Finding talent would not be a problem.

Kearny blatantly calls himself “Soccer Town USA.” John Harkes, Tony Meola and Tab Ramos, mainstays of the United States men’s national team in the 1990s, grew up in or near Kearny. The Kearny High Kardinals have won 17 state championships, and the Kearny Thistle United men’s and women’s teams have been around for 50 years. (The thistle, of course, is Scotland’s national flower.)

“We think we have the talent pool, we know we have the talent pool. And that hasn’t changed in 150 years, ”says Mike Mara, president of Kearny Thistle United. “Our club is really on a path of resurgence. We offer what other people do, but at a much lower price. And we still have a connection to the city. “

And, as Mara points out, soccer has never received more exposure in America, with American women becoming a world power and games around the world televised here. “You just can’t ignore it anymore,” Mara says of soccer in the United States. “As long as you’re thinking big and setting things up a certain way, the sky’s the limit.”

The 2020-21 EPSL Metropolitan Conference roster included other clubs with obvious ethnic ties: for example, New York Pancyprian Freedoms, New York Greek Americans, Zum Schneider FC. That way, the Kearny Scots will be a perfect fit. But no other team at the conference can trace their heritage back to 1895.

“People asked: Where is this Kearny? What’s happening there? Is there some kind of magic there? Is there something in the water? “Jim Harkes, John’s father, says in an article about the history of the city on the club’s website.

Much remains to be announced: the roster, the schedule, the sponsors, even the uniforms (which will likely remain dark blue for home games). There may not be any real Scots in these Kearny Scots. But the Kearny Scots, led by an ambitious immigrant, have big aspirations, a new team with a link to a beloved team’s storied past, as well as a sport.

“It combines history and tradition with exposure and the excitement of what we are doing,” says Frasheri-Gjoca.

When the new team launched in June at the clubhouse, a two-story blue and white building on Patterson Street (look for the sign with the Scottish Lion above the front door), Pollock said he couldn’t help but look at some of the players in the event and consider its background.

“The stories of immigrants, the stories of the first generation, are part of the beautiful game,” he says.


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