As you may have intuited by now, I was fourth row center at the USA- Poland FIFA international friendly last Saturday night (10.9.10). My social media activities have revolved around the event for the past few days.
I had never been to a professional soccer game before, but since I like to claim rampant expertise I have to say that going to a USA-Poland game in Chicago is probably one of the best introductions to be had in the States.
Why? There are a lot of Polish people in the Chicago/ upper Mid-West area. A lot. People came from Iowa, for example of dedication to the cause. Iowa.
It was festivity like I’ve never seen at a sporting event. I would hazard that 97 percent of attendees were in nationalistic gear, for either side, but mostly—let’s face it—for the Poles.
According to Ticket Master seat search options, special sections were designated for American and Polish supporters. In reality, pretty much every section was the Polish section.
Except of course for the American Outlaws super fan section, which featured… a brass band with drums.
It was pretty hardcore, and with the help of said band it was pretty loud at times, but Polish fans (including the one who accidentally spilled beer all over my little sister) stole the night. They dominated by virtue of numbers, by having watched soccer before the five minutes that were the World Cup, and by being able to pronounce the names of players on both teams. If you though Bastian Schweinsteiger of Germany was a long name to fit on a jersey, try Łukasz Mierzejewski. Then note that there are two players on the Polish side with that last name, so they also need to fit a first initial on their jerseys (Adrian Mierzejewski).
The point being, the nationalistically charged atmosphere at Soldier Field on Saturday night felt a little bit like an away game for Team USA (it also had something of the Quidditch World Cup about it, if you want my professional movie-goer opinion).
We sat in the thick of a mostly Polish fan section, where—truth be told—a throw down almost went down when a rather nasal American fan started getting argumentative. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like being at a sporting event with your whole family and having your dad attempt to put his foot down with the rowdy folks sitting behind you… sigh.
My family was split in allegiances. My sister was all Polska, complete with a flag-cape situation. My mother was too busy being entertained by the spectacle. My Dad was making friends with anyone who would chat with him in Polish. Since I don’t know any of the Polish players, and I do know the American ones… I discretely leaned towards an American win, and resignedly accepted the 2-2 draw, and consoled myself with the fact that the US never trailed behind.
I mean, I didn’t want to get punched in the face.
Clint Dempsey already had a black eye and I figured that at least one person on the premises was enough for the night. Plus, a black eye is no fun unless you have to be awkward yet badass about it at work the next day, and I don’t go to work.
Seriously though, it was serious fun. Soldier Field became Little Poland for a night and everyone there was swept up in the experience. The last sporting event I went to was a White Sox game a couple of weeks ago; I think I stood up twice, and that was only because I cave easily to peer pressure. On Saturday night, I was in and out and on the edge of my seat the entire time—and so was everyone else, even my mom.
As noted in my write-ups of attending figure skating events, there’s really nothing like seeing it in person. Seeing your favorites from international competition do their awesomeness just a couple of yards away from where you sit is excellenc. The line-up on Saturday included favorites like Tim Howard (remember his orange knee socks of joy?), Jozy Altidore (first goal), Oguchi Onyewu (second goal), Maurice Edu (dear my World Cup favorite), Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley with his baldness.
It was joyous from the second we parked amongst the tailgaters to about halfway through the three hundred years it took us to exit the parking lot when it was all over, bouncing along to Polish techno blasting from the Camaro inching along besides us.
There were a couple of fan girl types sitting a few rows away from us and they went to stand at the rail and wave their various Team USA We ❤ You signs. Obviously. One of them must have had a sign for blondie Stuart Holden, because after the compulsory handshakes and sweaty half-hugs, he turned towards our section, pulled off his jersey, jogged across the field and tossed it up to one of the girls, who may or may not have just died right there.
I obviously took low-res pictures of the happening on my phone.
You are welcome.
I venture to state that every single person (even my sister who as you may recall had an entire beer spilled on her) had hugely enjoyable night.
And why? Because soccer is easy to watch. It is easy to have fun watching soccer. It doesn’t last four hours, it doesn’t pause, you don’t have to know the finer points of the game to follow. It. Is. Just. Fun. And the fans are crazy. Crazy fun.
So I guess I’ll go ahead and say it: Someone should organize a trip to South Africa for the upcoming friendly in a few weeks. And then we can compare Little Poland enemy turf experience, to a real away game.
I don’t imagine it can be much different.
Related: Picture Gallery