I started a diary of what Liam, Kevin and I have experienced at the Florida Cup, but I have been on the run so much that it’s become impossible to do that with any degree of timeliness. So we’ll try this.
Sunday afternoon was the doubleheader at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex featuring matchups of Bayer 04 Leverkusen – Independiente Santa Fe followed by FC Schalke 04 playing the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
I wish that more analysis of the matches could be provided. Both German clubs won, Leverkusen on a late Stefan Kießling goal 1-0 over the SudAmericana champions from Colombia. Lewverkusen dominated possession but Santa Fe were tough to break down, urged on by the support of their many fans present at the match. Schalke downed the Strikers 2-0 on goals from Franco Di Santo and wunderkind Leroy Sane, who you have to love whether you are a S04 fan or not. You can watch both match at ESPN Watch
There were a good number of Schalke fans present, including Jody Strauch and her friends. Jody is the ultimate American S04 supporter. Bosnian fans were in full voice supporting their man,Sead Kolašinac. Schalke spent time before the match conducting workshops for building fan clubs, attended by team administration such as Peter Peters. The great Gerald Asamoah was everywhere over the weekend, signing autographs, shaking hands and sharing hugs and is truly an ambassador for the club. (It was announced today that Asamoah was chosen as winner of the FiFA Fair Play award on behalf of clubs assisting refugees… class is permanent).
After the matches, it was time to party a bit with some of the media people who Schalke brought on this trip and club supporters. I had my first taste of real North Carolina moonshine, which had nothing to do with the club (I want to make that clear), but it was gooood, and something on my bucket list I always wanted to try. There was plenty of entertaining conversation — it’s impossible to say too often how smart, fun and cool Bundesliga fans are…totally amazing even as I experience that great vibe again and again.
And Leverkusen had its fans at the doubleheader, too. Many more Werkself fans from Germany were here than at Florida Cup 2015, and of course the Chicharito Bayer and Mexico jerseys were seen everywhere, worn by fans who love the great icon of Mexican football. As one can imagine, the former Chivas man was swarmed by fans for autographs and selfies with him. It must be overwhelming for the striker, but he handles it all with grace and patience. Surely Leverkusen have to feel blessed for signing Mexico’s favorite son.
Both Leverkusen and Schalke have Florida Cup matches on Wednesday. THe Fanatic crew will be gone by then, returning to reality, but enriched by their Florida Cup experiences.
Photos by Liam Newberry
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