Fire

Section 8 doing its own work ahead of Fire home opener

tifos-section8-0225.png

Section 8 doing its own work ahead of Fire home opener

The Fire’s season opener is not far away, but the players and staff aren’t the only ones putting some work in ahead of the March 6 match against New York City FC.

Some of the fans are getting together to add some atmosphere and show their support for the season opening match. Fans from Section 8, the Fire’s independent supporters’ group, have had multiple organized outings already in February and have more to come before matchday.

In the past the group has put up some impressive tifos, which are organized, sometimes even choreographed, displays by a number of fans. This year they are promoting what they’re calling a ‘two-pole initiative.’

The two-poles are about 5-feet-by-5-feet sheets of fabric that have a fan-created design painted on them. They get the name from the two poles that fans use to hold them up high enough for everyone to see.

“There’s usually one big group behind it,” said Rudy Gomez, Section 8 director of operations. “This year we’re trying to do it more individualistic so people can come out and do a two-pole. If they want to take it home, they can take it home and it will be a great show of support and all that good stuff to show the team that we’re behind them.”

[MORE: Calistri brace gives Fire another preseason win]

The idea is to have enough of the two-pole designs created that it will create a cool visual effect in the stadium. Some of these designs are riffs on a Fire logo or on the logo of a specific fan group.

One of the more creative designs features new Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, who is Photoshopped into the hood of Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars movie. It includes the caption “Save us Pauno, you’re our only hope.”

“I like to see where people go with it,” Section 8 supporter John Petty said. “Some of them have relevance to the Fire. Some of them are just for fun, but they’re all entertaining.”

The process for a two-pole or a bigger tifo starts by creating a design on a computer. Next, they hook up a projector to the computer so they can trace the image onto the sheet that they will paint on. Finally, paint in the appropriate colors. Some of the more artistically talented free-hand their designs.

It’s a relatively simple process, but can be intimidating from afar. However, as Alexis McAdams, who is spearheading the charge to have these two-pole events about once a month during the 2016 Fire season, put it, “We’re not shooting for perfection.”

Whether it’s several smaller designs or one bigger, coordinated one, a lot of time goes into something that is on display for just a short period of time right before kickoff.

“It’s a lot of work for a minute or two of glory,” Gomez said.

[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear here]

Many members of Section 8 have been doing working on tifos and banners for years. Gomez is one of the longest standing supporters and one of the organizers.

He has met a lot of people through the events and tries to encourage an inclusive environment for more people to join.

“The people who’ve been doing this ended up being some of my really good friends so it’s something that we do as a group of friends,” Gomez said. “We get more people involved and we try to make it so everybody can come out and participate and show that love for the team that they have as well in this form that we’re trying to get out there.”

Be sure to watch the Fire home opener against New York City FC on March 6 at 1 p.m. on CSN.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”


Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

katai.jpg
USA TODAY

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of MLSsoccer.com, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.