This is a repost of a story that FrontRowSoccer.com editor Michael Lewis wrote on Nov. 23, 2001 about the NYPD soccer team in the wake of the 911 tragedy.
By Michael Lewis
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — No one has to remind New York City police Sgt. Peter Meehan what soccer means to him and his team.
“A bad day at soccer is a better than a good day at work,” he said.
In recent weeks, however, Meehan’s team hasn’t had any time for many good or bad days in soccer. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the city police have been working overtime to secure New York City.
Several weeks ago, the College Point Enforcers, NYPD’s official soccer team, returned from a hiatus in the Long Island Soccer Football League. The team could use a break from the stress.
“Anybody who loves soccer understands what it’s like to be on the field,” said Meehan, who is the Enforcers’ president and plays left or right fullback. “It’s a very good stress reliever. It was nice to be out there with all our friends.”
Meehan will see his friends at SUNY-Farmingdale when the Enforcers play in a special exhibition match against their archrivals, the FDNY soccer team, the College Point Flames. They’ll meet at the 911 New York Soccer Festival at 2:30 p.m. today, a fundraiser for the World Trade Center victims (the event runs from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.).
The Enforcers and Flames both play out of the First Sports Club of College Point.
“It’s a very big honor to play in the game,” Meehan said. “It’s a very good thing the Long Island soccer community is doing to help the victims of the World Trade Center tragedy.”
Matches between the New York’s Finest and Bravest can be fierce encounters, although neither team has managed to dominate the other.
“It’s a game for the bragging rights,” Meehan said. “We’re all great friends off the field. It’s also quite the adversary on the field. There seems to be a little bit of extra spirit on the field when we meet.
“We’re pretty even. No one is dominant. Both teams are very competitive and very even skill wise.”
But it’s more than that.
“It’s not so much the talent, but the way the team molds together,” Meehan said. “We’re very social. We’re all friends. We hang out together. We deal with each other in all walks of life.”
The LISFL allowed the Enforcers to take a five-game hiatus to concentrate on work. When they returned, they dropped a 3-1 decision to Rosedale. They’re 2-1 in league play since coming back.
“We wanted to go out there and touch the ball,” Meehan said. “We were very out of practice. We’re not out there to win all our games, but to keep ourselves in shape.”
Unlike other teams, who can bring in anyone, the Enforcers are limited to policemen (as are the Flames restricted to only firemen).
“Other teams can pick up anybody,” Meehan said, “and bring in three or four ringers. That kind of limits us, especially what happened after Sept. 11.”
Meehan, who works out of the 45th Precinct in the Bronx, knew two men who were listed as missing from the WTC tragedy — Brian McDonald of Emergency Medical Services and Sergio Villanueva, a former policeman who turned to firefighting.
“It impacted us very heavily when we learned that Sergio was missing,” he said.
Asked how he has coped, Meehan replied, “It’s a day-to-day situation.”
On Nov. 2, Meehan had to put on another uniform. As a Naval Reservist, he was called into active duty as a Second Class Petty Officer in Groton, Conn. His tour of duty will last a year.
Meehan didn’t think twice about serving his country, especially after what transpired in the city.
“I’m a patriot,” he said. “I love New York City. I’ve been a cop for over 11 years. I really love the city.”
Like it or not, the members of both departments have been thrust into the spotlight.
When several members of the NYPD and FDNY attended the MLS Cup in Columbus to receive the Commissioner’s Award the weekend of Oct. 21, Meehan found himself inside the victorious San Jose Earthquakes’ locker room.
Earthquakes defender Jeff Agoos gave Meehan his captain’s armband and his game jersey, which he signed. Meehan is looking for the proper place at police headquarters to display both items.
“My reaction was almost disbelief,” Meehan said. “I was so taken by the gesture. It would be like a kid today getting a home run bail or a jersey from a basketball and football player.”
Meehan has learned to keep himself grounded.
“After all the cameras and lights have gone away, that’s when the real stress comes along,” he said. “Reality kicks you when the spotlight goes away. If you can handle all the other stuff, that’s a walk in the park.”