Yosef Meystel has already published different articles about sports teams that help the community around them and that are a big part of community service in their area. Sports and charity have always been hand by hand as players and teams see this as a way to acquire discipline and to see their sport as more than just a money making machine. On the other side, communities benefit enormously from this type of teams because the amount of aid that is provided by sports teams is incredible and the culture of helping others that teams provide to a community plays a big role in the relationship they have with their fans.
Soccer, and very specifically soccer because it is one of the most popular games in the world, makes big contributions to communities. Teams around the world have schools, training facilities and classes that they provide for their fans and the community in general.
In the Chicago area it is no different. There are several soccer teams in the area, but there is one, the one that belongs to the major league soccer, that is well known for their work with the community: the Chicago Fire soccer team and its foundation. Let’s take a look at the story of their institution and how they help the community.
The story of this soccer team began with a legend. The great Chicago Fire started at 9pm on October 8, 1871 in a farm with very speculative causes. The fire’s spread was fast due to the following conditions: all the wooden material used to build the structures with a technique called balloon frame; a drought before the fire; strong southwest winds that carried flying embers toward the heart of the city. The entire city was made of wood and it had only received an inch of rain from July 4 to October 9 causing severe drought conditions. The initial response by the fire department was quick but in the wrong place due to an information mistake. There was an alarm set near the fire but it was not registered and the firefighters were tired from having fought numerous small fires and one large fire in the week before. So all these conditions turned a small barn fire into a conflagration which burned and destroyed an area about 4 miles long and 1 km wide, more than 73 miles of roads, 120 miles of sidewalk, 2,000 lampposts, 17,500 buildings, and $222 million in property. Of the 300,000 inhabitants, 100,000 were left homeless.
This relates to the team in the following way: On the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, October 8, 1997, an announcement was made. The new Major League Soccer team assigned to Chicago would be called the Chicago Fire. Its inaugural season would be in 1998.
At the beginning the idea was to acquire a good fan base. They signed notable players from Poland in order to address the polish population in Chicago which is the 2nd largest in the world after Warsaw of course. Poland’s national team captain Peter Nowak was signed by MLS and allocated to Chicago on December 16, 1997. Other notable players were Nowak, Jerzy Podbrozny and Roman Kosecki that were later added to the payroll. Lubos Kubik from the Czech Republic was also hired and Chicago native Frank Klopas, a former Chicago Sting player, was also hired to play for the Chicago Fire.
As part of the strategy, Chicago also targeted its Spanish population with the signing of Jorge Campos, Diego Gutierrez and Chris Armas. Campos stayed for one season, but the other two quickly became long-time regulars and fan favorites.
Since the team was born in a special day for Chicago where many families suffered and lost it all, they are committed to the community that surrounds them. Chicago Fire’s goal on the field is to play hard and win, and out of the field is to contribute to the quality of life in Chicago and its surrounding communities. Through the Chicago Fire Foundation, the Fire is able to give back to the community by developing programs that include and enhance young kids to help the community and to live better and healthier lives in the Chicagoland’s community. Since 1998, the Chicago Fire Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire Major League Soccer Team, has been committed to improving the quality of life throughout Chicagoland by leveraging its resources and expertise in the area of soccer to provide sports-based youth development and direct-service programs to underserved communities.
This is the story of the Chicago Fire team that has been helping their community since day one. In latter article we will analyse their programs and work. An example for the rest of the teams that apart from playing amazing soccer, should help their community, after all, they are the fans that support them.
Learn more about Chicago charities in this article