Frank Lampard, the all-time leading scorer for Chelsea FC of the English Premier League, came to New York in 2015 to join fledgling soccer team New York City FC. He’s fit right in, not just in the squad’s midfield but in the City, delighting in his new surroundings and posting some of his adventures on Facebook (family cricket in Central Park!). We had the good fortune to catch up with him at a recent event to announce the building of 50 new soccer fields in underserved NYC communities; he took the time to tell us about life in New York City, the state of soccer in the US and the importance of having a local pub.
Tell me a bit about your impressions of the City and how life here compares to London.
Frank Lampard: Well, I love the City. My wife and I fell in love with it straightaway. I’ve always been a city person—London boy—and New York is just incredible. It has what London has but almost more in terms of variety, culture, social life, everything. I just like walking the streets and feeling the energy and the vibe.
How about the NYC fans and their passion for and knowledge of soccer?
FL: The fans here are great, and I think soccer has its place. There are a lot of traditional American sports, with football, basketball, baseball, but soccer is the fastest-growing sport. The support we have, with fans from all around the five boroughs, is great. Every week they come to support us, win, lose or draw; they’re always behind us. You feel it when you walk around the street. And as I say, the game’s growing really quickly. We just need to win now as a team.
New York has what London has but almost more in terms of variety, culture, social life, everything.
You guys are doing a good job of that this year.
FL: We’re doing all right, we’re doing all right. [Ed’s note: At the time of interview—and at publication—the team held first place in the MLS Eastern Conference.]
The team seems like a reflection of New York City, with so many international players and coaches. Does that influence the style of play and how you relate to one another?
FL: New York’s a huge cultural mix, and our team’s the same. And also it’s nice that we have a few players who are pretty local, you know, born-and-bred New Yorkers. So I think it’s great to have that mixed in. We try to entertain the fans; we try to be part of them. We’re trying to keep in with the community and build from there—not just on the pitch, but off of it.
Do the players wind up sharing their New York City knowledge and experiences?
FL: Sure, yeah. A few players live in the City and some just outside of it near our training facility. We try to socialize together once a month or so for lunch or dinner in the City. There’s something for everyone here. You always hear of a new restaurant to go to, a new bar, a new coffee place. We’re all sharing our experiences all the time.
Could you name any of those places you’ve been to that you really like?
FL: I live in Midtown east of the park, so I like to go downtown. I love the Lower East Side. I love the West Village, Soho and also up where I am, very near Central Park. Do you want me to name restaurants and bars?
If you have any favorites, we’d love to hear them.
FL: Well, I went to eat at Miss Lily’s for Jamaican food on the Lower East Side, which is great. Great fun, with a good friend of mine. And there’s my local pub Bloom’s Tavern. You know, we all have to have a local Irish pub to watch soccer games back home. There’s loads. I could sit here all day and name them, you know. I like to try different ones. New York is renowned for its restaurants—I try not to go to the same place twice.
Has anything about the City surprised you?
FL: People had said to me New York is kind of cutthroat and people walk past you on the street. I find it the opposite. I find that people want to talk.
There’s my local pub Bloom’s Tavern. You know, we all have to have a local Irish pub to watch soccer games from back home.
Do New Yorkers recognize you on the street? Probably not like the way the locals did in London.
FL: Maybe not quite London because, you know, I played for Chelsea, I lived in Chelsea, so it’s huge in the area, but here, yeah, more and more. People might expect that you come over here and people won’t recognize you. I think those days are gone, because it’s such a worldwide sport, which has definitely infiltrated over here in the States. So if I’m walking up in Central Park, or anywhere, whether it’s American fans or NYCFC fans or tourists from Europe or South America, you get recognized a fair bit. But everyone is very friendly always.