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Latest Hudson River Derby tainted by violent fans, homophobic chant

A blurred screenshot of a portion of the attack as it unfolded.

Last week’s Leagues Cup edition of the Hudson River Derby at Red Bull Arena was marred by a series of ugly encounters between fans of New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls.

In one incident, NYCFC fans were targeted and attacked by Red Bulls fans as they left the stadium following the team’s 1-0 loss. In an unrelated event late in the match, New York City fans started a well-known homophobic goal kick chant inside Red Bull Arena.

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Video: Red Bulls supporters jump NYCFC fans

The violence began outside of Red Bull Arena not long after the final whistle. According to a first-hand account of the attack from a witness who spoke with Hudson River Blue on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation, a small group of NYCFC fans were attacked while making their way from the arena.

The witness tells us that a large group of assailants, dressed primarily in black and some with their faces obscured, surrounded the NYCFC supporters and prevented them from leaving the area. The Red Bulls supporters attacked the fans by punching, grappling, and kicking them, and at least one assailant used a makeshift weapon as a sling to hit an NYCFC supporter in the back of the head.

The attack continued for some time before being dispersed by members of the Harrison Police Department. 

A blurred video shared on Twitter appears to show almost two minutes of the attack directly outside the gates of Red Bull Arena:

The black-clad assailants were then said to have made their way through the crowd of people still heading toward the Red Bull Arena parking lots, all while allegedly continuing to terrorize fans, including families with children. 

A second clip shows the latter stages of the mayhem as it spilled into a nearby parking lot:

According to the witness who spoke with us, multiple people required medical attention following the attack.

One NYCFC supporter allegedly brandished a knife during the incident. John Perd, an accredited photographer who covers the Red Bulls and other soccer teams in the area, tweeted that a New York City fan was detained by the Harrison Police Department after pulling out a knife.

(Updated August 14, 2:21 pm: A spokesperson for the Harrison Police Department said that no knife was involved, and that no arrests were made. You can read more here in the article “Police share details on violence outside Red Bull Arena.”)

When reached by Hudson River Blue to elaborate on what he witnessed, Perd explained that he watched police chase down and apprehend a fan in an NYCFC hat. Perd said that he witnessed a police officer point at the NYCFC fan. “That’s the guy,” Perd recounted hearing the office say. “He had a knife.” (Editor: See update above regarding a statement from the Harrison Police Department that no knife was involved, and no arrests were made.)

The disturbances continued at the nearby Harrison PATH train station. According to Lenis Valens, a spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, at 10:42 pm ET “Port Authority police received reports of disturbances involving a group fighting amongst themselves near the Harrison PATH station.” Valens stated that the “PAPD safely dispersed the group, and no arrests were made.”

It’s unclear how many arrests were made or the total sum of the fallout from the violent encounters. The Harrison Police Department have not yet responded to multiple requests for information about the incident or its aftermath, but we will update if and when they do respond.

(Updated August 11. 2023, 11:10 am ET: Hudson River Blue spoke to a member of the Harrison PD who confirmed there’s an ongoing investigation.)

(Updated August 14, 2:21 pm: A spokesperson for the Harrison Police Department said that no knife was involved, and that no arrests were made. You can read more here in the article “Police share details on violence outside Red Bull Arena.”)

We also reached out to the communications department of the Red Bulls for comment but have yet to hear back.

(Updated August 10, 2023, 1:30 pm ET: After the publication of this article, the Red Bulls communication department responded to our request by stating, “At this moment, will not be commenting on the situation.”)

In addition, we spoke with an official representative of NYCFC, who directed us to the Harrison Police Department and the media office of the Red Bulls.

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Torcida 96 members accused

Multiple people at the scene and aware of the incident claim that members of a specific Red Bulls supporters group were responsible for carrying out the attack: Torcida 96

That organization was called out by name as the perpetrators of the attack by The Third Rail, NYCFC’s largest official supporters group, in a statement the organization shared with members while confirming the post-match incident that has since been posted publicly on Reddit.

Hudson River Blue could not independently confirm the involvement of members of Torcida 96 in the incident. We reached out to Torcida 96 for comment, but they have not replied to our requests.

Torcida 96 is one of the major Red Bulls supporters group, along with the Viking Army and Empire Supporters Club. Torcida 96 is known to be the most confrontational of the three.

Two days before the game, Torcida 96 posted a tweet that reads “We’re back in the stadium on Thursday against the dirty pigs in blue. DM us for info and come join the ruckus!!!!! Fuck off cxty!!!!! #RBNY”

Torcida 96 sit with the other supporters groups in Red Bull Arena’s South Ward. They occupy Section 133, which was once the home of the Garden State Ultras, a group that had their official supporter group status stripped by the Red Bulls prior to the 2018 MLS season. According to the New York Times report, the group was punished for “repeated disciplinary infractions, culminating in an episode on the last day of the 2017 season in which the team said a G.S.U. member dropped a flare into the family section of a rival team’s stadium.”

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NYCFC fans chant homophobic slur

NYCFC fans also contributed to the hostile environment inside Red Bull Arena that night.

As the 90th minute of the derby approached, a small group of New York City fans shouted an infamous homophobic chant as Red Bull goalkeeper Carlos Coronel prepared to take a goal kick.

This led the public address announcer at Red Bull Arena to read a warning to the crowd, one of the steps suggested by FIFA in 2019 as part of an attempt by the sport’s organizing body to help referees and teams crack down on discriminatory incidents such as this one.

According to The Third Rail president Andrew Tucker, the chant “was started by six people who were not in the official NYCFC away supporters section.” He went on to explain via email that “there were some supporters, belonging to various supporter groups, who sadly joined in.”

“The Third Rail stands with FIFA, CONCACAF, MLS, NYCFC, and all other organizations who have deemed this chant offensive and are trying to rid it from the beautiful game,” Tucker continued, while also vowing that Third Rail members would be receiving an email prior to NYCFC’s next match reminding them “of world football’s stance on this chant and how it has no place in our supporters section, home or away.” 

During the ongoing Leagues Cup tournament, extra emphasis has been placed on eradicating the chant from host stadiums.

Pre-match public service announcements address the issue directly, and team captains address fans prior to match kickoffs to ask them not to use the chant or other discriminatory language. Stadiums have tried blasting music during goal kicks to drown out any fans attempting to get the chant going—as was noticeably the case at Citi Field when NYCFC played Atlas FC of Liga MX.

These two unrelated yet unfortunate events left a bad taste in the mouth for this first-ever Leagues Cup Hudson River Derby. What should have been a high-stakes contest between two of the fiercer local rivals in MLS instead devolved into an embarrassing and destructive night.

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Editor: The statement from Lenis Valens, spokesperson for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was added on Friday, August 11 at 4:30 pm.

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