The Secaucus FC soccer club would love to get a crowd of 300 people to watch their games at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus, maybe even 30. But either way, it's a start.
The man behind the team, promoting the dream
The man who is behind the start of the Secaucus FC team three years ago is Nick Farinola, 24. His love of soccer is deep, starting at home in Secaucus with his Italian-born parents.
"I grew up watching Italian professional soccer every Sunday with my dad and grandfather," he said. "After the 1994 World Cup was nearby in the Meadowlands and the New York/Jersey Metrostars pro soccer team came into existence in 1995, I really started getting into it. When I was a kid at Huber Street School, nobody played soccer yet. But I didn't want to follow the crowd. "
Farinola was one of the first generation of soccer players in Secaucus, playing as a member of the original Secaucus High School soccer team. He wants to jumpstart a new generation of soccer players in his town. "We want to start a Secaucus FC youth league," he said. "Soon we hope have to have five, ten and fifteen year olds out here playing. We make cuts, but we don't really cut Secaucus guys. We want to provide the opportunity for local guys to get into the game."
The league that Secaucus FC plays in, the Garden State Soccer League, has some pretty stiff competition, including the Cranford RocStars, the archenemy of Secaucus FC. Farinola's comments about the Cranford team are brief.
"We just don't get along," he said.
However, the bonds between Farinola and his Secaucus FC teammates are strong.
"Soccer permeates everything," he said. "It may not be a part of American pop culture yet, but it's going to get there. Look around at our team. This is the new America."
The global game comes to Secaucus
The new America that Farinola sees rising in his midst is one that still reflects the immigrant tradition in America. The players of Secaucus FC have brought their love of what is called in soccer power Brazil "the beautiful game" with them to Laurel Hill.
Raul Alvarez, 28, is an independent filmmaker originally from Barcelona, Spain, where the famed European football squad FC Barcelona reigns supreme.
"Soccer is a big part of the identity of the city itself," he said. "I grew up in that world, and I wasn't really able to get into the spirit of sports here in America because people aren't really as linked to the identity of a city the way that they are in Europe. When I watched the World Cup, I started to remember what a different sport experience it was to be a part of soccer and how much it moves people, so I heard about this team on their website and I joined this team. There are a lot of players on this team from many different cultures and backgrounds, but on the field, it's all about playing the game."
Pablo "Danny" Gavilanes, 22, is a receiving clerk in a warehouse who recently came to America from Uruguay with his new wife to start a new life. He hopes that part of his new life will include playing professional soccer in the United States.
"I would love to make it," he said. "I'm getting back in shape now. Playing soccer is my skill. I played it for ten years back home. If you want to apply for a job, they ask you, 'What do you know how to do?' I know how to play soccer. Soccer is what I do."
Mark Leja, 28, was born in Poland. After getting into baseball after he moved to the U.S., he found his way back to his boyhood game of soccer after seeing it more and more on TV. For him, soccer gives him a needed alternative. "Adult soccer is a great thing," he said. "After college, people just go to bars and drink and often that leads to all kinds of problems. Playing soccer, I can stay in shape instead."
Locals proudly represent the town
Chris Loughlin, 22, is a Secaucus resident who also wanted to play after college.
"It's a good vantage point for someone who wants to play competitive soccer," he said. "I just hope the town becomes a little more supportive of the team. I play for this team in part because I want to support and represent Secaucus. There are a lot of kids playing in the youth soccer recreation leagues now in Secaucus. Come join us." D.J. McCaffery, 16, of Secaucus, did not need a lot of convincing. He already plays for the high school team as a defensive midfielder.
"Hopefully I'll get a college scholarship," he said, explaining why he wants to stay in shape by playing for Secaucus FC over the summer. But McCaffery also plays for even deeper reasons.
"I love soccer," he said. "Every time that you play, there are a hundred possibilities."
His cousin Michael Makarski, 20, agrees. A political science and journalism student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he is playing for Secaucus FC to help get himself in shape in order to join Team In Training, a non-profit organization that runs marathons in order to raise money for children with leukemia and lymphoma. As a political scientist, Makarski pointed out how soccer made the impossible possible during the World Cup.
"Look at the Ivory Coast (Cote D'Ivoire) in Africa this year," he said. "It's amazing that a game could stop a civil war. That's shows how strong the game is for people."
Lessons beyond the playing field
The game has another meaning for those preparing for war.
Jaeung Lee, 18, is a candidate for the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He comes from Leonia to Secaucus to play for fun and to stay in shape for what he hopes is a future military career. "At a Naval Academy seminar that I already went to, they taught us a lot about teamwork and devotion. You can see the same thing on the field here."
Anuar Romero, 26, lives in Secaucus and is on active duty with the United States Marines. He played four years with the all-Marine select soccer team. While he goes through a commissioning program at a local college, he plays with Secaucus FC, where he likes what he sees.
"It's fun being around a bunch of guys who have the same feeling about the sport," he said. "This sport is about passion and the will to win. You can only do that by building camaraderie with your fellow teammates, which applies directly to my experiences in the Marine Corps. If you're not on the same sheet of music and don't fight for each other on the field, there is no point in playing."
Romero had one final comment for his adopted hometown.
"The town of Secaucus should be very proud that they have a team that represents the town very well," he said. "We are the only men's team based out of Secaucus. The town should embrace that idea, and hopefully support us with our logistics needs, whether it may be fields, lights, or anything else. That's a good step for the town to take."
Team manager Farinola is prepared to do whatever it takes to have soccer succeed in Secaucus.
"It's about staying power," he said. "If people see that we're here and they see that we're here to stay, they'll come around. Soccer is going to get there. We may not be fully embraced by the town yet, but we are proud to call ourselves Secaucus FC. There is no reason to name the team anything else."