I had the pleasure of interviewing Andres E. Soto, creator of the NYCFC Fan Podcast, a few hours before our glorious 3-1 victory over the Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium. You can find Andres and friends here and can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.
You're born and raised in New York?
I'm born and raised in Queens, and I haven't moved out of the borough yet. I'm currently in Kew Gardens Hills.
Queens is a great melting pot and has a tremendous soccer culture. How's the NYCFC fan culture in Queens?
I see way more NYCFC jerseys and shirts compared to any Red Bulls merchandise. There are a few NYCFC bars there, such as Bar 43 in Sunnyside, but I usually go to Ryan's Daughter, on the Upper East Side.
When did you start the podcast?
The first episode was March 13. Funnily enough, it was the day after my father's birthday, and he's the person who really got me into soccer.
How did you first get interested in the game?
It started before I was even born. My mother is from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and my father is from Bogota, Colombia. Both countries have die-hard fans.
My parents were very old-fashioned, and I have a lot of old-fashioned qualities in me. Forty or fifty years ago, if you were not of American descent, you had a hard time having a job here, surviving, or being treated correctly. They raised me to be more of an American, and there's nothing wrong with that, but you also want to keep your own culture. I would see my father watching a soccer game, and before I knew it, I was all-in.
There are a lot of American things in me, but soccer is in my blood. Every little boy's dream, when they're raised by Latin American parents, is to be a soccer player. Being raised in New York, at that time, there was no soccer the way there is now.
How did you get interested in MLS?
When MLS came out, I tried to support the MetroStars. They were wearing red and black, which reminded me of AC Milan, but the games weren't on TV, and the Internet wasn't the way it is now, so MLS wasn't that significant for me. Even four or five years ago, there was no team I could root for. The Red Bulls play in New Jersey, and I'm not going to go to New Jersey to watch games. I didn't know there was something in me to support a team in the MLS.
NYCFC is a team that basically appeared out of nowhere, and we're seeing, even with this team losing a lot of games, about 25,000 people at Yankee Stadium, game after game. How do you explain that?
The World Cup did help raise awareness. When the U.S. Men's team played, every bar was packed. That showed that there's a huge number of soccer fans here from different cultures. There was a huge hunger for soccer after the World Cup was over. I heard rumors, and then came the announcement of NYCFC.
Our melting pot of soccer fans here had an empty hole in its heart that needed to be filled, and NYCFC is filling it. The only way to explain it is to go to a game. You're going to forget you're in a baseball stadium. You're going to see what soccer is, when people are cheering with one voice, for one team.
What rumors are you hearing about a soccer-specific stadium for NYCFC? What do you think will happen? What would you like to see happen?
Do I want to play soccer in a baseball stadium? No. Am I blessed and happy to have soccer in New York City? Yes. As long as the team stays in the five boroughs, I will continue supporting this club, and there might be a point when they move to Westchester or Long Island, and I might still love them. I'm not going to jump off the bandwagon just because they move.
That said, it would be amazing if we can find some space in Manhattan, by Chelsea Piers. Would I like them to build a stadium next to Yankee Stadium? Yes. Would I want the same Securitas employees in control of that stadium? Definitely not. If they tear down the Columbia University stadium and build a stadium for 30,000? I'd be happy with that, but there would be a lot of issues with parking and transportation.
I live in Queens, and I was loving the rumors about Flushing Meadows Corona Park. But is it the easiest to get there from Manhattan or Brooklyn? No. The 7 train is horrible, and I've taken that train my entire life. I'm not a fan of the Aqueduct. It's not a pretty neighborhood, there's not a lot to do there after the game, and it's not an easy commute. As long as it stays in the five boroughs, and it's an easy commute, I'm happy with that.
There are certain players emerging as fan favorites. Who have you identified, and what makes them so popular with the fans?
They're not getting paid millions of dollars to perform. They're underdogs, players like McNamara, Poku, and Tony Taylor. New Yorkers love underdogs. You want to be able to say these players started with our team, and grew with our team.
What are your thoughts on the different supporter groups?
When I became a fan, I used the Internet to find out about all of the different groups. It's amazing for me to see how these groups have sprung up organically. It's just something that we all love to be a part of.
Officially, I'm a Brown Bag Social Club member, but the day I met them, I was there with lots of groups, and everybody was supportive of everyone else. No one was saying, "Come with us," or "You can't go with them." Some groups have strict requirements, and some don't. That's going to raise questions about who do you trust, and who do you let in. At the end of the day, I'm not there for the "name" of a supporter group, I'm there for the people. It's the people I want to surround myself with. As long as the people are passionate fans who have each other’s backs, that's all you need.
How did you choose a podcast as the avenue for your NYCFC passion?
I'm a huge Audible fan, and then I learned about podcasts five or six years ago. I now listen to about 20 podcasts a week. I'm so in love with audio.
I'm in real estate. I came to my boss, and I told him there was no real estate podcast in New York. I then started to produce his podcast. I don't like to write, but I can talk. I like to be really vocal. I saw there were two NYCFC podcasts out there, and I started to listen to them, and I realized there's an audience for this already. The NYCFC Fan Podcast is somewhere in between those two, with some information and some comedy.
I listen to a lot of sports podcasts, and I love the analysis, but after a while, the analysis becomes kind of boring. So, I said to myself, "Why don't I interview the fans?" Let me see what happens. I started reaching out to independent writers about NYCFC. You have fans who want to speak about the team. It's all "indie" kind of information, but it's still information. Numbers keep increasing for the downloads, and people really come to the website and read the articles. Then I decided to start interviewing supporters clubs. There are all these fans who want to hear from other fans, and it's really creating a community.
There is a community, and that community is growing. People are working together, and talking to each other. NYCFC fans are really into creating things themselves. There's a lot of positive energy of people wanting to do things together, support each other, and talk about this team.
It's a grassroots movement, and it's very organic. People don't want to be sold to. They want to attach themselves to something that's theirs. When fans get involved, it becomes their work.
It's important that this is something that people are getting into on the ground floor, something they feel they can own from the beginning. All of us following the team right now, we've seen everything from the start. There's something very appealing about being with something from day one, and creating our own, new traditions, from scratch.
Absolutely. We're also creating our own history, and that's something we're going to pass on, hopefully, from generation to generation. You can say we were there from day one. A contributor to my podcast said it well -- my team is the worst team in the MLS, but our fans are #1. These are true fans. How can you be a "plastic" fan if we're at the bottom of the table and there are still more than 20,000 people at every home game? It's beautiful to be a part of that.