The Blue Moon rose all over Manhattan on Thursday before the City squad began their preparations for the New York Football Challenge.
In the morning, manager Roberto Mancini and several of the squad called in at the PS 72 Lexington Academy in Spanish Harlem, where a new rooftop pitch that soccer-mad local children will use was unveiled.
There are few adequate soccer facilities in the area, which means that children are currently bussed to other areas to practice. But that will all change now, with a new synthetic pitch to be installed on the top of the six-storey school building. Temperatures touched 100 degrees this morning, but a roof over the pitch will provide protection when the New York climate goes to the opposite extreme during the winter.
The new facility was jointly funded by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates and Manchester City, whose community scheme CITC will work closely with New York-based Downtown United Soccer Club to expand their inner-city outreach program, the City Soccer Initiative (CSI). This agreement is the first of a series of community initiatives to be announced by the club during Manchester City’s US tour and beyond.
School principal Tony Hernandez says that the pitch will make an enormous difference to his students and other local children.
“This is a fantastic day for us, made possible through the incredible generosity of Manchester City Football Club. We will be able to reach out to so many more children because of this.
To have this pitch will be incredible ... it means they can bring their culture here and we as New Yorkers want to embrace that
"There is a real buzz because of this here already, and we’ll also be taking note of Manchester City’s results from now on!”
Shay Given was one of the players who came to the Academy, and was taken aback by what is being done.
“It's fantastic that the club are doing this for underprivileged kids who maybe could not afford to get the coaching and learn the skills that they will here. We get a lot of stick for spending lots of money and buying big players, but people forget we do a lot of good work in the community. Now we have brought it to New York and this legacy will be here for years to come.”
Elsewhere in the Big Apple, a few first-teamers visited Chinatown for a photo-shoot with the new away kit – keep watching mcfc.com over the next few days for the full reveal! The entire squad then trained at Red Bull Arena ahead of Friday’s game against Sporting Lisbon.
The evening saw City legend and Club Ambassador Mike Summerbee drop in at the Mad Hatter Bar to meet Blues followers for the “Welcome to New York” party that kicks off an exciting weekend of activities across the Big Apple.