The American Eagles: meet Crystal Palace’s US supporter groups

Since Crystal Palace’s 2013 promotion to the Premier League, Americans across the US have set up supporter groups to practice their unlikely support for the Eagles.

Palace are unfashionable when compared to their London rivals – they have never been champions of England, nor won an FA Cup.

So why would a Chicago-born New-Yorker choose to be a Palace fan? What makes a Bostonian who has never set foot in Croydon so obsessed with the south Londoners?

Ian Carlow, 28, is a member of Boston’s Crystal Palace supporter group, whose love for the club spawned from their 2013 play-off success.

Carlow explained: “There was something about the sheer passion when they beat Brighton in the semi-final.

“The freedom of expression from some of the flair players like Yannick Bolasie enthralled me and drew me in, and the Palace fans were out of their mind.

“It reminded me of when the Boston Red Sox were able to overcome an 80-year drought and win the world series in 2004.”

It may have been Bolasie’s step-overs that drew Carlow to Palace, but what made him stay was the club’s work in its local Croydon area – a borough some 2,300 miles away from Boston.

Carlow said: “It’s a club and a community that exemplifies characteristics I can really relate to.

“In England the stadiums were built a hundred years ago physically in the centre of the city. They are at the heart of the things.

“Selhurst is physically at the heart of its community which you see with the Palace for Life foundation and the charity work the players do in the area.”

Bryan Garcia, 31, began supporting Palace in 2004 whilst living in Florida for reasons far more arbitrary – he liked the kit.

Garcia explained: “It was an accident.

“Our sports teams don’t tend to have stripes here, so basically, I saw their red and blue kit, I liked the nickname ‘The Eagles’ and thought ‘I’ll just support this team’.”

But what started as an accident soon blossomed into a fierce loyalty – Garcia watches every game in Manhattan mega-pub Legends.

To do so he must wake up at 4am to commute from his home in Connecticut to New York.

At Legends Garcia discovered a contingent of like-minded Palace fans – the New York Eagles.

From passionate chanting to beer swigging, their rituals are the same as those that visit Selhurst, but all in the shadow of the Empire State Building at 10 o’clock in the morning.

Garcia said: “We organically built a community on the back of Palace’s crazy promotion. We built this little nucleus. I feel extremely lucky that I stumbled in on all this.

“Every Saturday there would be five or six people I would see and just for two hours we are being silly, stressed or joyful if Palace get the win.

“You may not remember all the games in detail, but you remember all the celebrations, the hugs and spilled beers.

“Palace brings you together, but now we talk about things that go beyond the game. With coronavirus, we can’t see each other we still talk on WhatsApp about things beyond football.”

In 2015, after 11 years of long-distance support Garcia’s fanaticism finally took him to Selhurst Park.

Garcia recalled: “The closest thing I could compare it to was going to Disneyland for the first time.

“My poor friend had one of the stanchions of the Arthur Wait just to his right, so it blocked some of his view. We thought ‘this is the real experience.’

 “Overall, it was big on a personal level because at the time Tim Howard was the Everton number one so it was a chance to see both him and Palace.

“Naturally however, Howard was injured, and Palace lost their first game under Pardew having won the previous four. Typical Palace.”

SWL also chatted to Palace’s academy director about the club’s new academy centre, and the man behind their social media ‘arms race’ and you can check those stories out here and here.

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