On June 7, instead of the Mets taking the field the national teams of Greece and Ecuador will square off in a soccer match. It will be the first ever soccer game held at Citi Field.
Queens is a fitting host for the match, as the neighborhood of Corona is home to the largest Ecuadorian population in the United States, and nearby Astoria is home to the largest Greek population in the world outside of Greece.
In all, there are over 100,000 residents of both countries living just a short distance from Citi Field.
“It’s a remarkably cool element of this match-up, and something that we had in mind when planning it,” said Mets vice president Dave Howard, who added that unlike at baseball games, noisemakers will be allowed for the soccer match. “We think the atmosphere will be electric,”
Over 20,000 tickets have already been sold since they went on sale May 10, and Howard said he expects a near sellout by June 7.
State Senator Michael Gianiris, a Greek-American who represents Astoria, and Assemblyman Francisco Moya, an Ecuadorian-American who represents Corona, were invited to Citi Field last Friday for a press conference to promote the event.
After being presented with customized jerseys from their respective teams, Moya and Gianaris headed to right field, where they took turns kicking soccer balls past Mr. Met.
The pair has also placed a friendly wager on the match, with Gianaris putting up a plate of baklava, while Moya will deliver a helping of empanadas should Greece prevail.
Gianaris said his constituents are excited for the match, and if the past is any indication, are passionate about soccer and their national team.
“Seven years ago Greece won the European Cup, and the police had to shut down 30th Avenue because so many people took to the streets,” he said.
Howard said the Mets organization would like to use Citi Field year-round, and that there are already plans in the works to have another match between two professional teams sometime near the end of summer. He also said the organization is exploring bringing a professional team to Queens.
“We believe soccer is a great fit for Citi Field,” he said.
Currently, Ecuador is ranked 56th in the world, while Greece is ranked 12th. The Greek team is currently at the top of its group in qualifying for next summer’s 2012 European cup, while Ecuador is preparing to compete in the 2011 Copa America in July.
Tickets for the match start at $30 at are available at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda ticket windows at Citi Field without any convenience fees.