- Section 8 Chicago
Section 8 Chicago, the independent supporter's association for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club, encompasses a number of affiliate supporters groups, and independent fans. S8C's stated vision is "to unite all Chicago Fire fans, to create a dominant in-stadium force unseen in any American team sport and to establish a home-field advantage whenever the Chicago Fire play". The groups that comprise Section 8 Chicago mostly occupy an area in the stadium known as "Section 8" from its original location at pre-renovation Soldier Field (the current section is 117/118 at the new Toyota Park) and Fire fans are well known for their non-stop chanting, colorful displays, and undying support of the club, showing a spirit on par with average atmosphere in many traditional soccer countries.
Section 8 Chicago is an association and exists to supplement the efforts of independent fans, coordinate between the supporters groups, and act as liaison between fans and the Chicago Fire club. The ISA board of directors is elected annually the first week in February by its member groups and all independent supporters.
The History of "Section 8"
Fire supporter culture began in 1997 with the establishment of "Barn Burners 1871" and the selection of the seating area in the Fire's stadium beginning the following year. Chosen as much for the symbolism of the name as the location on the corner of the field, Section 8 was selected as the fans' home sector and established with then-GM
Peter Wiltas a designated standing area of the stadium to encourage the traditional style of fandom seen in most countries or even in America with college athletics. In 1999, the Fire Ultras moved into Section 8 from their original location on the opposite side of the stadium, mixing the heavily American/English influenced style of the Barn Burners with the ultrasstyle of the Polish group. The resulting cocktail of fans was an enormous success and both groups agreed to permanent cohabitation in the section. Despite an adversarial relationship with stadium security forces, the chaotic style attracted many independents with the supporters' end sometimes swelling past 1000 persons for matches of importance in 2000 and 2001 when popular players like Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik, and Hristo Stoitchkovplayed for the club.
In 2002, renovations of
Soldier Fieldforced the club to move to Naperville, a suburb of Chicago, for a whole season and take up residence in a smaller stadium. Restrictive policies on fans at this college campus and poor performance by the club stifled growth for a time, but introduced behind-the-goal seating to Section 8. The entire north stand of the small stadium was designated as a supporters' area and enabled more interaction between supporters and casual fans then in years at Soldier Field with the close proximity of the whole crowd.
The return of the club to Soldier Field in 2003 saw Section 8 establish itself behind the south goal at the renovated stadium. The additional space, swelling of numbers, and good performance of the team led to a movement of marking territory throughout the stadium with large banners and flags along the walls of the field and fronts of the upper tiers, something that has carried through to this day. Large pre-match visuals using plastic rolls, paper streamers, or paper card mosaics became standard for bigger games in the manner of european
tifodisplays. Increased cooperation between the club, security, the stadium management, and fans took hold in spite of incidents involving the long-common practice of smuggling pyrotechnics (mainly naval flares and smoke canisters) into the stadium. In 2005, after the shocking dismissal of popular club president Peter Wilt by the ownership, fans organised a large protest, arrived en masse eight minutes late for kickoff, and dressed in black for the home opener in a show of solidarity with the former president.
The construction of the permanent home for the club in 2006 at 71st Street and Harlem Avenue,
Toyota Park, saw Section 8 take up residence in sections 118 and 117 on the north side, or "Harlem End" of the stadium. The combined resources of the groups and the supporters' association brought many cooperative projects to fruition in the stadium's inaugural year, commissioning a large wooden sign for the player entry tunnel from the locker rooms to the field, establishing a carved masonry brick display at the front entrance of the stadium as testament to the role of former club president Peter Wiltin building the facility, and creating one of the largest fan-produced flags in professional sports - the 80 yard long and 25 yard high "Megabandera" in red and white with the club name and logo that covers the entire "Harlem End" and is frequently displayed at many important matches for the team.
Main Supporter Groups
A brief introduction and background of the main affiliated groups:
Barn Burners 1871
Established in spring 1997 by Don Crafts, before the founding of the
Chicago Fire Soccer Club. This group was the first to organize and the original occupants of Section 8 at Soldier Fieldin the first season. Barn Burners 1871 is supported by yearly dues-paying members, at last count over 300. Once the dominant fan group in coordinating supporter activities "BB1871" has skewed older in recent years and looks toward a resurgence in years to come. Particularly known for its embrace of tailgate parties as the standard prematch activity for Fire fans.
Fire Ultras '98
Established in 1998, Fire Ultras are a Polish
ultrasgroup modeled on those of their home country and composed of many recent immigrants and transplanted natives. For many years known for their harder edge to supporting the Fire at home and away; and fervent vocal and visual support. Originally residing in Section 9 at Soldier Fieldin 1998 and identifiable by their orange jackets, they merged into Section 8 in the summer of 1999. This group is responsible for the original visual style of Fire fans, bringing in scarves, large banners, and waving flags.
Inspired by the Fire Ultras' style, Ultras Red-Side was established in 2003 to enable fans of other ethnicities to support in an
ultrasstyle. Heavily influenced by the supporting style of fans in Spain, France, Italy, and Scandinavia; they formally introduced the concept of organised visual displays, or tifo, to Fire fan culture. The group began an annual dues-paying membership structure beginning in 2007 after several years of informal organization.
Arsonists are also one of the oldest groups, established in 1998 and sitting in Section 16 at midfield of old
Soldier Field. Mike Ditka Street Crew became a Fire fan group in 2002 during the club's temporary residence in Naperville, and is very punk/skin/mod influenced not unlike the fans of St. Pauli in Germany. Whiskey Brothers Aught Five are a younger group based primarily around drinking culture.Fact|date=August 2007 Sector Latino are a barra style group of Latin American fans. Acme Irregulars are a group of Central Illinois Transplants who have affiliated with Ultras Red-Side.
2008 ISA Board of Directors
"(position, name, group affiliation)"
* Chairman: Ben Burton (Independent)
* Vice-Chair/Communications:Mike Fotopolous (The Last Ward)
* Dir., Marketing and Merchandise: Pola Henderson (Ultras Red-Side)
* Dir., Finances: Mario Ortega (The Last Ward)
* Dir., Operations: Liam Murtaugh (Ultras Red-Side)
2008 Section 8 Chicago Affiliate Supporters Groups
"(in order of founding date; approx. size listed)"
* Barn Burners 1871 (1997; 300+)
* Fire Ultras '98 (1998; 20+)
* Arsonists (1998; 10+)
* Mike Ditka Street Crew (2001; 20+)
* Whiskey Brothers Aught Five (2003; 15+)
* Ultras Red-Side (2005; 40+)
* Sector Latino (2005; 50+)
* The Last Ward (2007; 20+)
* Red Scare (2007; 15+)
* The Shandy Sisters (2007; ?)
* Ghost Town ( 2006; ?)
* The Western Front (2007; ?)
* Partisans (2006; ?)
* Blitzer Mob (2006; ?)
* Acme Irregulars (2007; 5+)
* Brew City Firm "Milwaukee" (2006; 5+)
* East Bank Firm "Southern Illinois" (2006; 5+)
* Ohio Fire Fans "Central Ohio" (2006; 5+)
* South Side Scoundrels (2007, 15+)
Additionally, the majority of match-to-match "Section 8" fans are independent - that is, unaffiliated with a supporter group.
* [http://www.section8chicago.com Section 8 Chicago Independent Supporters' Association Web Site]
* [http://www.barnburners.com/ Barn Burners 1871] Supporters' Group website
* [http://www.ultrasredside.com/ Ultras Red-Side] Supporters' Group website
* [http://www.blitzermob.com/ Blitzer Mob] Supporters' Group website
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pV8sHFQb4I] YouTube video of Section 8 photos
* [http://section8chicago.com/news/press_detail.asp?prID=87] 2006 Chicago Tribune article on Section 8
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