Mark Sokolowski, with his sons Andy and Michael

Anny Week Blog 4.1

In response to our Anniversary Week Blogs, Mark Sokolowski aka “krolpolski” chimed in via his BigSoccer handle with his memories of soccer in Chicago and how he came to follow the Fire… Later in the day we’ll have another Anniversary blog from Section 8 Chicago’s Mario Ortega!

Nobody's asked me (heck, why would they) be here's my little contribution on the occasion of the Fire's birthday.

I grew up when there was no popularly acknowledged professional soccer team in Chicago. Oh, they were there. The Mustangs. The Cats. But you wouldn’t know it from the lack of media coverage or marketing. My friends and I learned the game on our own. We goofed around on high school football fields using the goal posts as our soccer goals. 

But there was no one locally to idolize. No team jerseys to buy and pretend. No thought of ever playing professionally for the home team. Heck, you had to have a relative who was visiting the old country bring you back a ball and shoes so you could play.

When the World Cup took place in Europe or South America, we went to the Aragon Ballroom or the (now demolished) Milford Theatre to watch closed circuit satelite feeds of the games on the silver screen. We’d tune into Channel 11 weekly as Brit Toby Charles called the play-by-play on “Soccer Made In Germany,” featuring teams we’d never heard of.

Eventually, though, there was a team that soccer fanatics in Chicago could follow in person: the Chicago Sting. Unfortunately, many fans of the beautiful game in Chicago still considered the play of the yellow-and-black clad professionals on the Astroturf of Soldier Field or on the outfields of Wrigley and Comiskey parks to be below the level of what they remembered in their homelands in Europe, Latin America and Africa. 

And after nine years and two league championships (the last being the ultimate one of the North American Soccer League in 1984), the Chicago Sting moved full-time into indoor soccer as the NASL folded. The team stayed afloat for a while before the lack of attendance at the old Rosemont Horizon (now the Allstate Arena) forced Sting owner Lee Stern to close up shop in 1988. 

To read the rest of this story, visit the Chicago Fire forum on BigSoccer.