What are sports without rivalries? The urgency and drama surrounding two teams battling, vying for bragging rights breeds the kind of insatiable storylines that brings us, as fans, to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And as soccer continues to forge its way to the top of the sports lexicon in North America, a tantalizing rivalry is brewing right here in New York City: Red Bulls vs NYCFC. And while it’s a relatively new rivalry with NYCFC only in their third season in MLS, the matchup has already generated some unforgettable moments in a short period of time, which is exactly why this Heineken Rivalry Week episode of BTW was one I was itching to tackle.
I met up with Red Bulls’, Alex Muyl, and NYCFC’s Sebastien Ibeagha, downtown in the city we all call home. The concept surrounding this shoot was simple: both players would show me something they enjoy doing in the Big Apple and together we’d learn a little bit about each other and perhaps unearth some common ground while navigating enemy lines. Ok, that was dramatic. But you get the point.
Alex is as New York as they come, born and bred in the Lower East Side where he still resides with his family. The three of us met at his location of choice, Jump Into the Light, a Virtual Reality cinema just a few blocks from his apartment. I facilitated the introductions between Alex and Sebastien and could tell right away that despite playing for rival clubs, the level of mutual respect between the players was high, and I knew right then that the day was going to be all kinds of fun.
If you’ve never dabbled in the world of VR, I’ll simply tell you this: It is exhilarating, exhausting, anxiety inducing, and you look like a complete fool while participating in it. As the VR enthusiast, Alex played the part ever so cooly, at least by comparison, as we danced in a desert, climbed mountains, and jumped and ducked our way through a New York City obstacle course. After two hours of existing in this weird but awesome cyber existence, the three of us were buzzing. And exhausted. Definitely a true bonding experience. (Good choice, Alex.)
We then made our way to South Street Seaport where Sebastien busted out his beautiful camera, and gave Alex and I a glimpse into a craft he’s passionate about, photography, showing us some of the beautiful shots he’s taken in and around NYC. He let Alex and I model (nailed it!) and even allowed the Red Bull to try his hand at taking some snaps, which turned out pretty darn good.
The rain that flooded NYC streets earlier cleared, making way for a stunning golden hour sky, the kind that only this city seems to manufacture. It was a perfect backdrop not only for Sebastien’s remarkable photos but also a thoughtful and memorable conversation about the rivalry between their clubs. As a native New Yorker and Red Bulls Academy product, Alex spoke firsthand about how the addition of NYCFC to the New York City soccer landscape has bolstered the game here. Sebastien offered a different perspective, as someone new to the city and the rivalry he told us how the level of competitiveness between the clubs and supporters surprised him upon his arrival here. One thing we all agreed on? This rivalry is the real deal.
Raising our Heineken’s, we toasted to an awesome day and to what we hope will be another outstanding installment of the New York Derby. So whether New York is red or blue ... that day it didn’t matter. We were all New Yorkers. And friends ... for now. ;)
Cheers to Alex and Sebastien and cheers to you! Thanks for watching.