With the Mets in Cincinnati on Aug. 15, Citi Field will be transformed into a soccer pitch, and the ballpark will feel and look a whole lot more like an Ecuadorean soccer stadium.
"For the Ecuadorean community, we are feeling in the house, that we are in Ecuador," Ecuadorean Consul General Jorge Lopez said Monday. "That's why we expect that the whole Citi Field will be dressed in yellow, red and blue, our colors for the national team."
For the second consecutive summer, Citi Field will host Ecuador's national soccer team, this time against South American opponent Chile. Last June, Ecuador played to a 1-1 tie against Greece before a near-sellout crowd of 39,656.
Queens County, where Citi Field is located, has the largest concentration of Ecuadorians outside of Ecuador itself, with about 100,000 residing there, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Francisco Moya, the assemblyman for the 39th District and the first Ecuadorean-American elected to public office in the U.S., said his district is soccer crazy.
"You walk into any bar or restaurant in my district and the only thing that you see on the TV is soccer," Moya said. "Any time you bring in two teams of this magnitude, you're going to see a buzz that gets created here, and the enthusiasm around it."
Mets executive vice president of business operations David Howard said the influence of the Ecuadorean community in and around Flushing is quite prominent, which should lead to another well-attended match.
"They're in Corona, they're in Jackson Heights, they're in East Elmhurst, they're right here," Howard said. "As a matter of fact, after the match last year, that community walked down Roosevelt Avenue, and the police actually stopped car traffic because there were so many pedestrians walking back from the match."
Howard also said the draw of the Chilean national team might be enough to top last year's attendance and achieve a sellout. The 2010 census showed about 20,000 Chilean-Americans living in the metropolitan area. Julio Fiol, the Consul General of Chile, said the largest concentration is found in Valley Stream. Fiol acknowledged that the Chilean contingency will be in the minority at the match, but dismissed this as a competitive disadvantage.
"That is not going to influence the game, let me tell you," Fiol said. "We know that we are less people than them, but we are not afraid of that."