Soccer….Family Style

Chicago Fire Supporters: Out of Many, One
June 24, 2012, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, Major League Soccer, Supporter Culture

Truth is, I thought Chicago Fire had one supporter’s group: Section 8. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Section 8 is an association of supporter groups, that are all awesome and unique in their own right. I had a great chat with one of the founders of Whiskey Brothers about the history of their group and the Fire supporters in general. Some groups formed out of ethnic groups, Hispanic or Polish, and some were born out of a group of guys drinking and starting a supporters group as a bit of a joke and had it take off unexpectedly, a story the certainly rings familiar as the somewhat accidental founder of American Outlaws Des Moines.

If you go to a Fire game, take some time to tailgate and meet the various groups. They have their own personality and are full of great people. We hit it off with Husaria, the Polish supporters group. My husband is mostly Polish, and I’m part Polish too, but more importantly, when you buy their merch, you get to drink shots of some crazy Polish drink that is serious business, even thinned. Plus, their shirt with the supporter holding a lit flare over his head and the Chicago stars looks really good on my husband. Great booze, great merch…yeah…I’m home with Husaria. 










As if that wasn’t enough, they had a great anti-racism tifo complete with flares. I think I’m in love. 

Love Your Local Supporter
June 24, 2012, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This was one of my favorite photos from our trip to Chicago. Ever wonder where all the drums and tifo come from? There’s a huge network of supporters the create, store, carry in, set up, and tear down all that stuff. We do it because we love our team so passionately that we have to express it. It disappoints me that so many front offices don’t get that these days. Seeing two trailers of tifo at the Chicago Fire tailgate just made my day. Keep up the good work, all you soccer supporters.

Here We Go…#MLSRoadTrip
June 23, 2012, 4:54 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Ever have one of those days? We got a slow start out of the hotel this morning, and the Shedd Aquarium was packed. Our friend Jimmy wanted to see it, so we agreed to meet him later at the tailgate and headed to the Globe Bar. We got there and the bouncer said no minors because of the Euro game crowd. This pisses me off to no end, having taken my kids through World Cup and German bier gartens which are designed with playgrounds so kids can play while parents relax and have a drink. Our bar culture is one of my biggest frustrations as an American soccer fan. But I digress.

I was actually able to get us in referencing meeting the owner on our last Chicago trip, only to find out that the #MLSRoadtrip guys also couldn’t get in thanks to a member of their crew being DAYS from 21. Ugh. America…why must you torture us? We went on to the bar with them, but lost our meetup with Peter Wilt in the process.

The Spain game was as I retweeted Spain’s best argument for internationalizing the siesta, but talking to Evan Ream about their project was fantastic. It’s renewed my desire to try to get to all the MLS stadiums. But more on that later….now, we tailgate!

#MLSRoadTrip and Korea Redux part 2
June 22, 2012, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The past few weeks I’ve been in soccer heaven. USMNT World Cup qualifying kicked off and Euro 2012 has been a steady IV drip of delicious soccer (did anyone else get a little depressed on the one day break?) Plus, I’ve been reliving the daily 10 year anniversaries of the 2002 World Cup, which was the best World Cup trip ever for me. It’s been an opportunity to reconnect with some of my travel buddies from that trip, both in Tampa and via social media.

Last week, Jimmy LaRoue posted to Facebook that he’d be in Chicago for a conference, and was looking for things to do. I commented asking if the Fire was playing, since we’d been trying to line up a family road trip to some MLS games. As luck would have it, the Fire is in town, and playing our family favorite opponent, the Columbus Crew (aka the Yellow BEEPing Team to my kids, because y’know, you can’t curse if you’re not at a soccer stadium). Sounded like the perfect thing for the boys and I to do while our daughter’s away at camp.

Jimmy, aka Uncle Jimmy, was one of my favorite people that I met in Korea for the simple fact that we met the first day at the US vs Portugal match, and as a virtual stranger, was completely tolerant of my 4.5 month pregnant needs. Going to a World Cup halfway through a pregnancy is no easy task, and after the wonderfully emotional game, I was totally exhausted as we wandered endlessly looking for shuttle buses. When we finally found the line, it was so long, I thought I’d lose my mind. But while Doug and the guys went and held our place on line, Jimmy kept me company and did not flinch when I told him that even though we’d just met, I desperately needed to put my feet up, and if he was sitting next to me, they were going up on him. He was so completely accommodating, we’ve been friends ever since.

Through the magic of Twitter, this road trip has now snowballed to include plans to meetup with Peter Wilt at the tailgate, and I finally get to meet @EvanReam, who’s on the far more epic #MLSRoadTrip, 51 days, 12 cities. Who’s stoked to hear about how he planned that whole thing? This girl. I”ve been trying to figure out how I can get games with about 2-3 day in between at (in order) Kansas City, Colorado, Real Salt Lake, LA, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver. Schedule that for me, will ya, MLS? Still, I remember my pre-kid days when MLS first started and I was going to see every team at home…until Tampa Bay folded before I got to them and I gave it up. Maybe it’s time to start revisiting the #MLSRoadTrip ideas….or it will be, after a good night’s sleep.

Until later today….

Soccerific!! USMNT WCQ, Euro2012, and Old Friends
June 8, 2012, 12:36 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer

Since 1994, I’ve counted my life in four year increments. In some ways, everything in my life is planned around the ebb and flow of the World Cup schedule. The qualifying build up, the anticipation of ticketing phases, the glorious tournament, and then the two years of darkness, when we have nothing but Gold Cup, friendlies, and Olympics (or not) to enjoy with our National Teams. So it’s pretty difficult to contain my excitement with the soccer on tap today.

As my friend Monty posted on Facebook this morning, “There are some great days that bring excitement each and every year. Then there are days like today that only happen once every four years … the first day of qualifying for the (2014) World Cup in Brazil starts today.” For people like us, the wait for “games that count” is over. The USMNT Road to Brasil starts tonight here in Tampa with our game vs. Antigua and Barbuda. It doesn’t really matter to me that this should be an easy game for the US, and we’re probably going to get soaked in the rain tonight…just so long as the wait is over.

As if that’s not enough, today also kicks off Euro 2012, with the host Poland playing Greece in Warsaw, which means a month of excellent European soccer. It’s a tournament second only to the World Cup in excitement….as I’m writing this, it’s 10v10, missed PK, tied game….it does not suck.

And who better to spend it with than my soccer family? I am staying with Andy Gustafson, one of the guys I met in Korea 10 years ago. Also with us is Jon Strauss, another World Cup traveler, and meeting us later, Rishi Bagel, who not only hits the World Cups, but joined us at Azteca for the game in 2005. For me, this is like a family reunion all wrapped up in soccer. It’s going to be a beautiful weekend, no matter what the weather.

Korea 2012: 10 Years Later
June 8, 2012, 10:46 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, Supporter Culture, US Soccer

A ripple went through the soccer world this week, as we passed the 10th anniversary of the US vs Portugal game in the 2002 World Cup. I smiled every time I read a “10 years ago I was….” post on facebook or Twitter, and I teared up watching babyfaced Landon Donovan in his disbelief scoring on the powerhouse on Portugal. As I thought about my “10 years ago today…” I got a little nostalgic.

Ten years ago, I was five months pregnant, with my darling girl, Aviva. I had taken the long flight to Korea with my husband, trying to keep my ankles from swelling on our way to our second foreign World Cup. We knew a few people from Iowa that would be in Korea, and we had met a few people through the “Yanks in Korea” Yahoo group (remember those days?) but otherwise, we were on our own. We headed out to the bar where Americans were meeting up, and came across many of the people that we continue to travel with to this day. It was like another world from where we are today. I had no idea the potential that US Soccer would display at that World Cup, and had no idea the bonds we would forge that day would lead to lifelong friendships with so many people.

US v Portugal would be my first time taking my daughter to a USMNT match (we called her’s “obstructed view seats”) and would start a lifetime of taking my kids into the supporters section. I remember her doing what felt like a full 360 spin when we hit the “wall of sound” that was the Koreans chanting in unison at the US vs Korea game. I remember cradling my belly at the US vs Poland game when it looked like we were headed home, all our work in the previous two matches for nothing.

I realize now, ten years later that there will never be another World Cup like that for me, where the unknown wonder of what was to come for our family and the team I love was so full and bright. I have loved every time I’ve brought my kids to games, but I find it hard to imagine a World Cup so far exceeding my expectation, now that the bar has been raised so high. It was a great experience to see the Germany Weltmeister through my then 3-1/2 year old’s eyes, and to travel South Africa with so many good friends was fantastic, but ten years ago, I was that pregnant girl in Korea, and I had the time of my life.

***If you want to read more about our trip to Korea and you can’t wait until I finish the book I’m writing about our travels, pick up a copy of Andy Gustafson’s “23 Days in Korea.” He is one of the people we met at that first game, and tells a great story of his trip, albeit misspelling my name and totally misrepresenting how that cab WAS mine! It is otherwise a great read. You can buy it here.

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