Hundreds of Barcelona NYC fans – the FCBarcelona Penya – are packed into Smithfield Hall this spring afternoon and they are all in good voice, but nervous. The scars of the sensational Champions League upset inflicted on them by Roma are still fresh as they prepare to kick off the 2018 Copa del Rey final against Seville.
FCBarcelona Penya NYC Take Over Midtown Manhattan
As it turned out, they needn’t have worried as they are 3-0 to the good by half time thanks to two goals from Luis Suarez and one from Messi. By full time, Iniesta and Coutinho have added to the tally and the happy members of Barcelona NYC Penya spill onto 25th Street to celebrate.
The Barca fans are no strangers to such rejoicing. Since migrating to Smithfield from their original home at the legendary Nevada Smiths in 2011 they have celebrated winning two Champions Leagues, two World Club Cups, four La Ligas and five Copa del Reys. Not to mention having the pleasure of watching the world’s greatest player week in, week out.
The NYC Penya was originally formed back in 2001 by a group of ex-pats from Catalonia who have now moved on (the original president is now the president of the Penya in Sao Paolo). The New York club currently has over 500 paying members and is one of the largest Barcelona supporters clubs in the world. The club is now spearheaded by Catalan native Jordi Getman-Eraso who explained to First Touch the appeal of match days at Smithfield.
“What makes it special is that, first of all, we are watching the team that we love. We come here with the expectation that we’re going to watch a great game with the people that we know from every weekend, and we get recognized and treated very nicely by the staff, so we really truly appreciate what they do for us.
“At the same time it is really interesting to see people walk in and faces light up as you see different people that you’ve known for a long time. Some of us have become friends not just as members of the Penya, but much deeper friends. So it’s a gateway in many ways to integration in the city for a lot of people that arrive. Barca fans arrive in the city and they roll into the Penya and then all of a sudden within two or three months they have a series of friends that come to be very important.”
Game day attracts fans to Smithfield from all over the world, like moths to a flame. On this particular occasion there is one fan who has travelled up from Maryland to ask Jordi some advice on starting a supporters group in Baltimore. The president of the Israel chapter has also stopped by for a visit. And of course gamely wouldn’t be complete without the appearance of Ori and his ‘MessiMobile’, a contraption that has to be seen to be believed.
The car is completely decorated in Barcelona colors with an amazing attention to detail, from the Barca logo headrests, right down to the MESSI number plate. The car even has a horn that blares out Barca chants as well as a personal tribute from eccentric commentator Ray Hudson.
“My daughter designed this car when she was sixteen years old and then I gave it to a shop that does car wrap,” explains Oradell, New Jersey native Ori. “She has a passion for graphic design and that’s what she does now.”
“The car has become the symbol of the Penya NYC. This is our mascot,” says the proud owner, who enjoys the attention he gets when driving around the city.
“Those who know what this car represents actually cheer and give the thumbs up. Even the local cops around here cheer for this car. Even Real Madrid fans admire it. Driving this car and being a Barcelona fan, you can’t go wrong.”
NYC FCBarcelona Penya In The Community
As well as enjoying the sense of family and community that Smithfield has helped create for the club, Jordi explains that the Penya is also about returning some of that good will to the community.
“We really try to emphasize the notion of social commitment that Barca is all about, so three years ago we became a non-profit organization. We hold at least three or four big events each year where every member pays an entrance fee. All of that money goes to charity.
It goes to charitable groups in the city that are dealing mainly with young kids that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We work with groups in Queens and the Bronx and we’ve done a couple in Brooklyn. We’ve worked with South Bronx FC, Manhattan Kickers and NYCFC. The whole idea is to try to align the notion of soccer with empowering young kids from poor neighborhoods to really start to feel that they can succeed in life, so we want to use football to channel that.”
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