If you're a typical American sports fan with only a vague grasp of how serious Argentinian soccer rivalries run, just take a look at what happened in last night's game between Boca Juniors and their hated opponents, River Plate. The game was suspended when Boca fans attacked River players at halftime with pepper spray, and then the whole team was trapped on the field for two hours before police could help them escape.
Half of that crazed rivalry is now coming to Miami in a big way. River Plate fans in Miami better be careful wearing their red and white around town. Starting in August, Boca Juniors will have a custom-built training site in North Miami Beach.
The complex—at Mishcon Park, 16601 NE 15th Ave.—will be state-of-the-art, with 12 synthetic turf fields, locker rooms, a gym and more. It's the fruit of a three-year effort to get a Boca Juniors complex in Florida, according to Daniel Rotsztain, the President of Soccer Development Group, the Boca Juniors U.S. franchise that will manage the complex.
“Miami is the perfect location for this, with more than 35 percent of the population from Latin America and more Americans playing soccer too,” Rotsztain tells New Times.
With SDG's offer to invest more than $2 million in improvements to the park in the first year of the agreement, North Miami Beach officials were eager to support the proposal. In February, plans were approved by the city council 7-0.
“Our city is going through a Renaissance of sorts,” says North Miami Beach City Manager Ana M. Garcia. “To have a soccer program and a partnership with one of greatest programs in world, that makes us extraordinary, not average.”
Increasingly, North Miami Beach is home to Colombians, Argentines, Brazilians and other Latin Americans, she says, who “want to play soccer.”
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“What a better place than down the street from where they live?” she says. “We’re developing the next World Cup champion here.”
The training site will be the second Boca Juniors complex in the United States; there’s already one in New Jersey. Last year, FC Barcelona opened the club’s first official US academy in Broward.
Rotsztain says Americans can learn a lot from the world's best soccer players.
“Soccer is growing a lot in the US, and not just for Latin Americans,” Rotsztain says. “In Argentina we’ve been playing soccer for the last hundred years, so it’s a perfect match.”