Scoreless Draw Doesn't Squelch Baltimore's Soccer Fans
By Michael Page
More than 42,000 soccer fans chanted and sang their way into M&T Bank Stadium July 28 for the third international friendly in the stadium's and the city's history. The Liverpool Football Club and Tottenham Hotspur of the Barclays Premier League laced up their boots and played to a 0-0 draw.
"The goal was to get 40,000 [fans]," said John Maroon, president of Maroon PR, which helped promote the game. "So, we are really happy with the turnout."
Though these teams are based in Europe, their fan bases stretch worldwide and even right here into Charm City.
"We have about 75 members currently," said Neil Reiner, a member of the Baltimore chapter of the Liverpool Fan Club and a resident of Mount Vernon. "This is huge for us. Most of us have been fans for most of our lives. For Liverpool to come back to the U.S. for the first time since 2005, which was mostly played on the West Coast, and for them to end up playing here in Baltimore, is just huge for us.
"There are a lot of Liverpool fans here in the states, so it's great for them to come back to the U.S."
Fans from all over the country poured into Baltimore for the friendly, creating an atmosphere on par with a Ravens game.
"One hundred and sixty of us came down for this trip, and we got 2,700 tickets all told," said Joe McCabe, co-owner of The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge, Mass. "We are probably the most famous Liverpool bar on the East Coast. People come from all over the world to visit. It's like a shrine to them."
McCabe is used to traveling to watch his squad play. He and his Phoenix Landing co-owner, Kevin Treanor, have been organizing trips all over the world for years. Although Treanor has traveled to see Liverpool play many times, he said the Baltimore trip had been particularly enjoyable. He even took an opportunity to compliment Baltimore while taking a shot at one of the city's archrivals when it comes to sports.
"This part of Baltimore is fantastic," McCabe said. "It's been a great trip. They treated us a lot better then the Red Sox people did. They have really done a great job."
Josh Dunn of Olney, Va., made the three-hour drive to M&T to see Liverpool play after receiving lessons about the club from an elder neighbor for the last eight years.
"My neighbor is like 70, and she is from England and she has been teaching me about Liverpool soccer since I was about 10," said Dunn, who is now 18 years old. "I had to come and see them; it means everything."
Cyrus Nasseri, a 10-year-old dressed in a full Liverpool uniform, came to the game with his dad from New Jersey to see his second friendly and his first with Liverpool.
"I like their players," said Nasseri, an aspiring midfielder. "I want to see them score."
Nasseri didn't get the goal he was looking for, but said he was delighted to see his favorite squad playing on American soil.
The economic impact of the previous two soccer matches on the Baltimore business community totaled $25 million combined. Though it is too early to determine the exact impact this year's friendly will have on Charm City's economy, there were indications throughout the city that it would be big.
"It was crazy," said Jason Zink, owner of No Idea Tavern in Federal Hill. "That's all I can say. I tripled staff, hired security. Everything went very well. It was a crazy, controlled atmosphere. It was the best day for No Idea in the 7.5 years I have owned it.
"I have never seen Federal Hill like this on a summer Saturday afternoon. My staff and security were phenomenal."
Zink wasn't alone in his praise of the event.
"It's definitely been better than a normal summer Saturday," said John Leonard, owner of Don't Know Tavern on Light Street. "We are a little off of the beaten path, but it's been definitely better than normal. We had a real good crowd before and after the game."
CORRECTION: A quote in this story was originally attributed to Kevin Treanor, but the speaker was Joe McCabe. PressBox regrets the error.
Posted July 28, 2012