04-02-1982 Chicago Sting 5 Toronto Blizzard 1 (NASL Indoor) Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois
This was my first indoor game (twenty-nine years ago to the day) and as you will read below it took me a while to get used to. The following article was penned by yours truly some three years later, the Sting had moved to the MISL by then, and was published in the matchday programme for the Ipswich v Gillingham FA Cup 4th Round Tie in January, 1985. As you will probably surmise I was hooked.
I apologise that my offering to “Soap Box” is on a subject other than Ipswich, and on a subject perhaps many of you are not that familiar with, INDOOR SOCCER and the United States Major Indoor Soccer League now in its 7th year.
Having been a loyal fan of Ipswich and the English game for 15 years I must admit that at first I disliked the indoor game, a hybrid version of five-a-side football, a bastardisation of our national sport. Surely the sport won’t last I thought, but in Chicago, as elsewhere across the United States, the indoor game has caught up with and surpassed the outdoor game in attendances.
My adopted team in the US, the CHICAGO STING, won the NASL. Championship this year (outdoors) but were only able to average 8,000 fans a game. In contrast they attracted 14,500 for their opening game of the 1984-85 Indoor season, in the 16,500-seater Chicago Stadium.
My first indoor game, back in 1982, looked like human pinball. No throw-ins, no corner kicks, no offside, no intricate rules to understand, continuous substitutions, balls bouncing off walls, sin-bins, etc. Give me 22 players sweating it out on a muddy field any day, or so I thought after my first few games.
Once I was able to accept that there was room for an off-shoot of my beloved sport, I began watching the game judging it on its own merits, and began to thoroughly enjoy it.
The game is a theatrical event, starting with the players being introduced through clouds of billowing smoke to the accompaniment of strobe lights, shortly followed by a non-stop action game, and always plenty of goals. If this is what it takes to make Americans aware of the world’s most popular sport, then great!
And what’s more, I can sit there in my comfortable padded seat safe in the knowledge that I won’t be rained on, attacked by rampaging hooligans, and that I can get a beer from a passing vendor without leaving that seat.
I am occasionally reminded of the games roots, courtesy of some of the leagues U.K. imports, Alan Hudson, Gordon Hill, etc. all who give me a yearning for an English League game, but I certainly don’t want to give up my new found spectating comforts.
The Football League and Football Association should take note. I’m not suggesting that you switch to the indoor game, but certainly come and have a look at what the American fan gets for his hard earned dollar in comfort and entertainment, some¬thing that many stadiums and games, respectively, have lacked in England for a few years.