Over three hundred members of the New Jersey soccer community gathered recently to celebrate the unveiling of one of the most important and beautiful sporting sculptures in the United States.
The statue is the brainchild of Michael T. Dolaghan, a Harrison councilman and employee of the town’s Board of Education. He spearheaded the multiyear campaign that culminated in the unveiling of the nine-foot bronze likeness of an early twentieth-century soccer player on October 8, 2022.
The township shut down the main street for several hours of programming, which included some of the town’s soccer greats addressing the assemblage and a banquet at the Harrison Elks Lodge.
The feature of the program was the art of Andre Iwancyzk, a Polish-American sculptor who escaped his native country during the days of the Solidarity movement. Iwancyzk began the sculpture in New York City, but finished it in his Jersey City studio. Begun in 2019, the project has been sidetracked and slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Town of Harrison, a mile-square municipality with almost 20,000 residents, is home to Red Bull Arena, where New York Red Bulls play in Major League Soccer. The stadium also hosts international matches and the local high school rivalry match between Harrison and Kearny high schools. Locals know the area has a long a soccer history, as noted by a small plaque at the foot of the statue. It simply states: “Soccer in Harrison, Since 1883.”
The sculpture highlights the contributions not only of Harrison, but of the West Hudson towns of East Newark and Kearny, too. It carries the name “West Hudson: The Cradle of Soccer in America” because of the early and deep connections to the game, from its infancy until the present day. Young girls and boys will no doubt be inspired to make their own contributions to the area’s soccer legacy as they pass by the statue on the way to the mini-soccer field that so many legends honed their skills on. It is right around the corner, next to the public library.
Anyone that spends time admiring the sculpture will learn about how soccer has helped shape the area, and vice versa. A marker notes many of the teams that played across the generations, like little-known sides called R-Own SC, Crucible Steel SC, and Peter Hauck Brewers. One side of the sculpture’s base celebrates the game’s diversity: “Harrison and our West Hudson area has welcomed and embraced so many from other lands all over the globe. This special connection, this diversity, has been and will continue to be our strength.” Other club names pay tribute to this fact: Hibernian SC, Harrison First German AC, Polish Falcon AA, and Harrison Peru SC.
Dolaghan, who is also a local soccer historian with a vast photograph collection, has been the driving force behind the project, one that has faced considerable obstacles. He stated recently, “The campaign started off great, but then the pandemic hit and changed everything. Business and people were hit hard. Then the prices for materials skyrocketed, which added thousands of dollars to the overall cost.”
Even though the dedication has already happened, the project is not yet fully funded. The Society for American Soccer History is proud to announce its support. Other groups and individuals can get in touch with the organizing committee at the Harrison Education Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org or 973-483-2055) to help push the campaign across the goal line.