The hibernation of Bronx soccer enthusiasts finally ends this weekend when the Bronx New York International Soccer League (BNYISL) kicks of its 33rd season this Saturday, May 26 at the Evander Childs HS field at 800 Gun Hill Road, Bronx,with its usual diet of six games for the weekend.
The season’s very first game features defending champions Mandela United against founding members Midlanders SC at 3pm. Mandela, whose preparations began indoors and ran non-stop throughout the winter, is rumored to be featuring more local talent than in recent years.
The whispers doing the rounds suggest that one of the biggest local names around, the dreadlocked Irasto Knight, ex-Trinidadian star and professional in various leagues around the world and most recently with local club Baldwin, is now on the Mandela roster. If the likes of Jamaican national player Jermaine Hue suits up also (pending national duties) fans from outside the Bronx should find their trips to Evander Childs more than worthwhile.
But Mandela’s quest for a fifth consecutive crown is not expected to be as easy as in recent years as several clubs have long begun preparations. Indications are that the many blowout wins earned by Mandela may be a thing of the past as, according to one League source, fans can expect more competitive games resulting from the re-alignment of the conference groupings.
With the reshuffling of the zones, several new match-ups will be featured. The opening match of the season will feature two teams which hasn’t faced each other in this millennium. Mandela gets put to the sword early with consecutive tussles with glamour teams Baldwin and Arantes after their opening date. The feature game of opening day pits
Uniondale, a playoff team of last year, against Kandia, which last year failed to make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Neither have faced each other in the past decade. Kandia is the last remaining team in the league to have won the league crown prior to Mandela’s run.
Other match-ups for the opening weekend are; Unity vs Shaka (Saturday) and Teaneck vs Yardaz, Mt. Vernon Pride vs 214th Street, and Caribbean United vs Bronx Strikers, all on Sunday. Bronx Strikers, which also began their preparations indoors, is once again expected to contend for a playoff spot, which they gained for the first time in their third year in the league. They are expected to have their hands full trying to contain last year’s beaten finalists Caribbean United.
This year, the BNYISL executive board plans to employ ‘zero tolerance’ in terms of punctuality for games. Clubs face fines for causing a late start to games. In fact, league officials say they expect clubs to be on the field no later than five minutes prior to their kickoff.
Another feature of the 16-week league is the introduction of the Super Cup Knock out to be contested by the top four teams of both zones at the midpoint of the season.
Also, in its quest to bring about a more family atmosphere to the weekend proceedings, all adults accompanying a child will enter the venue free of charge before 3:00 pm each day.