A melee erupted in Newark shortly before the start of the Red Bulls, New York City FC encounter, pitting supporters from both teams in an English style hooligan clash.
The brouhaha, which lasted all of a few minutes, involved fans tossing garbage bags at each other, engaging in fisticuffs and using restaurant signs as weapons before New Jersey Transit cops broke up the fracas.
Why did it happen? As it turns out, there is a bit of history behind the scrap.
It all began in the second ever Hudson River Derby at Yankee Stadium. Both the Red Bulls and NYCFC franchises planned a secure arrival for the traveling Red Bull fan contingent in the Bronx that would include, amongst other things, an awaiting security detail at 3 p.m. at the River Avenue subway stop.
The Red Bulls supporters arrived in timely fashion. The security detail, however, was nowhere to be found.
That set off an ugly scene as members of the Garden State Ultras, a European fashioned Red Bulls supporters group consisting of several English and Irish transplants, found themselves thick in the territory of NYCFC supporters where fans of the opposing club began some friendly banter at the arriving GSU.
That friendly spirit didn’t last. Tempers flared quickly with both groups engaging in a small melee before GSU members made their way through the City supporters and into the stadium.
Word of the ruckus spread quickly in NYCFC fan circles. A European styled NYCFC supporters’ group who made a name for themselves in an incident involving alleged nazi chants at Yankee Stadium earlier this year caught wind of the confrontation, setting the stage for Sunday’s melee.
A small group of NYCFC Ultras came into Bello’s, the home of the Garden State Ultras, to “size up” the group in hopes of exacting revenge.
“They came looking for us,” one GSU insider tells EoS.
Once comfortable with the competition, the group engaged GSU outside of the establishment. What they didn’t account for, however, was the second floor of the establishment, which housed the majority of the Red Bull support.
What ensued was captured on video by Associated Press writer Rob Harris, featuring a flood of GSU members chasing away the NYCFC Ultras with trash bags and sandwich signs before transit officers broke up the melee.
In New Jersey and immediately encounter crowd trouble ahead of the New York derby (Red Bulls-City). Video: pic.twitter.com/slY3hYn5aM
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) August 9, 2015
Interestingly enough, the quick response from Newark officials was no coincidence. As one source shares, law enforcement officials were on “high alert” prior to the match, catching wind of a possible retaliation at the very location of the encounter.
Following the encounter, several media outlets questioned whether this was the beginning of European style hooliganism in American soccer circles. That may be a bit far fetched. An isolated incident hardly reflects a movement of violence in the larger American landscape. The issues were personal. Both groups run in similar circles outside of the soccer realm, bringing a certain familiarity to the confrontations.
That could mean problems at future New York City, Red Bulls matches. As one source tells EoS, “I think for the derby match next year, [they] will bring their clips fully loaded.”
In other words — this may not be over.