Amateur Soccer in New York Built on Greek Immigrants’ Pride, The New York Times Say

Pancyprian founder Philip Christopher (R) and General Manager George Chalkidis

NEW YORK – The New York Times’ Graham Parker writes about the New York Cosmopolitan League and the contribution of the Greek-Cypriots and Greeks in the history of the amateur soccer in the USA.

“As the New York Pancyprian Freedoms play their Greek American counterparts on the soccer field below him, Pancyprian founder Philip Christopher is telling a story.

“In 1984, the Pancyprian Freedoms had won the right to represent the United States in the Concacaf Champions Cup, a regional club tournament. It was quite an honor for a small New York team, and after they were drawn to face the Honduran club C.D.S. Vida, the traveling party boarded a plane for Tegucigalpa.

‘The American ambassador to Honduras came to the airport to receive the American team, and all my boys were speaking Greek,” Christopher said. “He was saying, ‘What are all these kids speaking?’ I had to explain to him that we were the American team, but we weren’t exactly All-American boys.’

The Cosmopolitan Soccer League is a regional soccer league consisting of clubs based in and around New York City. Established in 1923, it is one of the oldest soccer leagues in the United States and has contributed greatly to the nation’s soccer history.

Currently, the league has four open divisions.

The first two divisions require all clubs to also field reserve teams, a requirement that some leagues have abolished, but which the Cosmopolitan Soccer League believes makes its competition some of the strongest in United States soccer. The league also has an over-30 and an over-36 division. The league is USASA-affiliated.

FILE – Pancyprians celebrate their advance to the Comopolitan League final 2017. Photo: D. Avlonitis

“The Pancyprian Freedoms, too, emerged out of political trauma. Christopher pinpointed the founding of the team to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20, 1974. He was an expat playing recreational soccer in New York when the invasion occurred, and with a group of friends decided to form a team that they said would not only compete locally, but also would “project the image of Cyprus.” The organization quickly transcended soccer, NYT reports.

‘We built the Pancyprian Community Center in Astoria, and from there the club expanded into many more areas than just football,’ Christopher said to NYT.

“The Freedoms quickly established a friendly but heated rivalry with the more established Greek American Athletic Association, and another against the Brooklyn Italians.

“Our rivalry was crazy,” Christopher said to NYT of games against the Greeks and Italians. “I mean you feared for your life to go to Brooklyn. We had to separate the fans. The Greeks on one side, the Italians on the other. I mean, it was an ethnic sport ——'”

Greek American Atlas Astoria, commonly known as New York Greek American, is an American soccer team from New York City that currently plays in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League. The club was formed in 1941 by Thomas Laris and is one of the most successful clubs in America’s annual national soccer tournament, the U.S. Open Cup, winning four times, in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1974. The team is one of the oldest American soccer clubs in existence and plays its games at the Metropolitan Oval in Maspeth, Queens.

Reat New York Times’ full story here.