Soccer at Soldier Field: Da Bears? Da Copa!

Copa America at Soldier Field

Copa America at Soldier Field

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport.  Nothing brings people from around the world in such unity, and often competitiveness, like the great game of soccer.  Of course, in America, where soccer is viewed as boring, un-entertaining, and un-American, it is not uncommon to see Yanks get all apoplectic about a sport that is beloved by anyone who is not from the USA.  In other words, most Americans seem to callously enjoy ripping on soccer for being “foreign”; watching Fox News during the duration of the World Cup sums up all the obnoxiousness that Americans seem to relish in at the expense of foreign nations.  But underneath the hardcore NFL fans who can barely muster a day of exercise lies a massive demographic of fans who come to games in America in droves.  The large number of Latinos in the United States have helped to make soccer a big deal especially when teams from their home countries play a game in the good ol’ USA.  This is the story of how I, on a spur of the moment, attended a massive game in the windy city with my dad at one of the biggest football stadiums in the country.

Recently, my family went to Chicago to see my sister and her in-laws.  My dad, however, felt frustrated that he was going to miss the Argentina VS Panama match during the 2016 Copa America series.  Being a massive soccer fan, not to mention a native of Buenos Aires, he had his heart set on watching the game.  When he learned that the game would be held in Chicago at Soldier Field, naturally, my dad went on a mission to see if he could score a ticket to the madness.  But he felt a bit silly if he were to go there by himself so he asked me if I would like to tag along.  I wasn’t that big a soccer fan, but I had never been to Soldier Field and I knew my dad would be wandering the streets of Chicago all night searching for the iconic stadium.

Before I knew it, my dad and I had two midfield tickets and we were on the next subway from Chicago station to Roosevelt station near Grant Park.  It seemed like we’d be wandering the streets as I had never been to Soldier Field, but we just easily followed the caravan of Argentinian and Panamanian jerseys coming out of the CTA.  What’s more, they were all chanting “MESSI!  MESSI!  MESSI!” in honor of Argentinian soccer superstar, Lionel Messi.  We hoofed it past the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium as we headed down into the tunnels leading to the mighty Soldier Field.

Soldier Field was designed in 1919 and opened on October 9, 1924, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium. The name was changed to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925, as a memorial to U.S. soldiers who had died in combat. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army–Navy Game.  Its design is in the Neoclassical style, with Doric columns rising above the East and West entrances.  The stadium is best known as the home field of the Chicago Bears of the National Football League who began playing there in 1971.  The stadium’s interior was mostly demolished and rebuilt as part of a major renovation project in 2002, which modernized the facility and lowered seating capacity, but also caused it to be delisted as a National Historic Landmark.  Soldier Field has served as the home venue for the Bears as well as games from the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and multiple CONCACAF Gold Cup championships.  With a football capacity of 61,500, it is the third smallest stadium in the NFL.  The most noticeable feature of the stadium are the Neoclassical columns that are part the original stadium facade as they stand beneath a modern bowl stadium.

As my dad and I took our seats, we watched all of Soldier Field fill up with thousands of die-hard fans flying the flags of Argentina and Panama.  Shortly after the national anthems, the game was underway.  Seven minutes in, Argentina struck first with a goal.  For most of the first half, it was a rather bland period with the exception of a red card and my dad giving such a pouty grimace over the fact that Argentina, in his opinion, wasn’t playing up to their full potential.

My father and I showing off our Argentinian side at Soldier Field.

My father and I showing off our Argentinian side at Soldier Field.

The second half, however, would be an action-packed half that came courtesy of Lionel Messi who would steal the show later in the half.  From the moment he took the field, every Argentine soccer fan screamed as if he was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan.  And I thought David Beckham made the football fans faint!  He had a hat-trick; three goals in the last fifteen minutes of play brought the crowd to their knees.  By the end of the match, Argentina pretty much whooped Panama 5-0.  My dad, however, being the soccer purists he is, was so unimpressed with almost every goal; he spent most of the match shaking his head and wagging his finger in the most judgmental way possible.  I love my dad, but I am not a hardcore soccer fan like he is; I wonder what would qualify as a decent goal for him?

Argentina GOAL!  MESSI!  MESSI!  MESSI!

Argentina GOAL! MESSI! MESSI! MESSI!

It was an amazing night.  My first trip to Soldier Field, my time seeing Messi on the field (not to mention an amazing hat-trick!), and seeing the utter joy on the biggest soccer fans this side of Buenos Aires and Balboa.  If this night taught me anything, it was two things:

  1.  Watching soccer with my dad is exciting as it is frustrating.
  2.  Soccer does have a future in America.  Wait till we win the World Cup!  Stay tuned…
A Rabbitoh and his soccer-loving pop!

A Rabbitoh and his soccer-loving pop!

About admin

I am a graduate of Stony Brook University, and I have a degree in History. I am an avid traveler, with an extensive knowledge of geography, a passion for photography, and a knowledge of animals too. I enjoy pop music of the 1980's, fine dining, movies, baseball, basketball, and rugby.
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2 Responses to Soccer at Soldier Field: Da Bears? Da Copa!

  1. Alisoun Brewster says:

    Jared–I drive by that place all the time–both you and Leland have said it’s terrific–thanks for the great write-up–I will let you know when I make my way there!!😘

  2. Alisoun Brewster says:

    Ahhh–Jared–wrote my last response to your earlier post on Leghorn!! Love this write-up too!! You and your father look so happy!! Great you were able to make it to the game–yeah hat tricks👍

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