In the competitive world of collegiate soccer, the New York University Shanghai boys’ team stands out for their fiery encounters with their collegiate rivals.

This season, almost every game against Sino-Western schools like Duke Kunshan University (DKU) and others has seen heated moments as the intense competitive spirit plays out.

NYUSH competes in a unique athletic landscape, often facing off against other institutions such as DKU, Nottingham College Ningbo, and Liverpool Suzhou. These matchups seem to be more than just games. There is also a hint of an underlying battle for supremacy for which can be the best Sino-Western school in China.

Yoon Lee (Class of 2026), co-captain of the NYUSH boys’ soccer team, described how tensions naturally mount in the heat of competition as the game unfolds. He explained how, as the scoreboard tilts, the team on the losing side often grows more sensitive. “Their deep frustration turns into anger, especially when defeat seems inevitable. At this point, typically when the outcome appears decided, larger arguments break out,” Yoon said. These culminate in conflicts that are as much about pride as they are about the score.

The typical scenario Yoon describes unfolds as a game progresses: initial trash-talking leads to increased sensitivity as the outcome becomes apparent. The verbal jabs, often influenced by heightened emotions, particularly among Spanish-speaking players, set the stage for the following physical altercations.

The entire team, including substitutes, sometimes gets involved, turning these incidents into full-blown conflicts. This was most evident in the large fight between NYUSH and DKU that broke out during the December 2, 2023, match, where NYUSH lost the game 4-1. Yoon adds that there is a history of disagreement and confrontation between NYU and DKU, contributing to the tensions of future matches.

Oscar Chang (Class of 2026), a spectator at the NYUSH and DKU match, told how “[a NYUSH player fouled] a DKU player, which should just have been a momentary issue, but it escalated so quickly.” Oscar also described how, after a few players began pushing and shoving each other, “everything erupted, with benched players and spectators jumping to the field to defend their team.”

It was similar but not as intense during the March 30, 2024 match against Ningbo Nottingham which NYUSH lost on penalties after tying 1-1. Another confrontation broke out, according to Jeff Qasimi (Class of 2024), “where everybody swarmed onto the field, fighting each other in the center.” He also described the general confrontation patterns where a harmless side-tackle turns into a foul on an NYUSH player, “and it’s like, now, okay, they’ve provoked [the NYUSH players], prompting them to fight.”

NYUSH’s co-captain, Jose Luis Garcia (Class of 2025), acknowledges the frequent disagreements but sees them as part of the sport’s natural tension. “Soccer, like most sports, involves high tensions at the moment, so it can be easy to get carried away by frustration and comments from players from the other team, especially since, as a team, we want to represent the school well.”

For Jose Luis, the fights are less about personal grievances and more about the heat of the moment, reflecting the high stakes involved in each match. Despite the regularity of these conflicts, team leadership at NYUSH strongly emphasizes sportsmanship and proper conduct. Jose Luis advises the players to “not let the arguments get into [their] head and affect how [they] play.”

The coaches and captains encourage players not to let the incidents affect their gameplay or mental state. They emphasize maintaining focus on the sport itself and upholding the educational values that their institutions stand for. By maintaining discipline, NYUSH tries to mitigate the negative impacts of such disputes on their team’s performance and reputation.