Several distinct soccer cultures converge in Ridgewood, a little triangle along the Brooklyn border hemmed in by the industrial zone north of Metropolitan Ave and the freighter tracks to the east. Yesterday, I saw a guy walking on Fresh Pond Road in a Lewandowski jersey (representative of the neighborhood’s large Polish population) and a little kid in a Barcelona SC kit – the yellow one cluttered with more ads than an XVideos page – kicking a ball against his garage (an example of the Ecuadorian set). Meanwhile, my Albanian landlord is obsessed with Real Madrid, Serie A, Albanian SuperLiga and seemingly every other world league. There are also Romanian-American cultural and soccer centers, minivans decked out in Chivas paraphernalia and a growing footy hipster contingent who visit local bars to brunch with the Premier League.
Grover Cleveland Athletic Field, atop a steep hill on Suydam Street, hosts club and high school matches. The beautiful field features an unimpeded view of the Manhattan skyline but is closed to the public.
So anyone looking to play pick-up has to travel a few blocks north to Grover Cleveland Park, which features a turf field with two sets of small goals for half-field games and two large goals on the end lines for full-field play – just watch out for the families practicing baseball or the kids playing tag. Williamsburg Charter High School practices here on weeknights during the season and may invite you to scrimmage if you bring a squad.
Banatul Folklore and Soccer Club, a Romanian-American cultural center that celebrated its 49th anniversary in March, is located on Menahan Street.
Even Stanley Hardware on Bleecker embraces soccer culture. Or at least they never removed the sign for the previous business or organization – I need to do some more research about that.
Finally, Ridgewood features NYC’s only referee store – aptly named Referee Store. When I stopped in last week, the owner told they do most of their business online at RefereeStore.com, but the shop on Fairview Ave. is open from 11 am to 2 pm every weekday in case you can’t wait 3-5 business days to get your whistle, dissolving spray paint or coin-flipping coin.