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In the fiftieth minute, a guttural roar went up in unison with the flares lighting up the Harlem End of the stadium. Numerous individual wildfires up and down the stands came together in an instant, the darkness dissipated, the noise and the smoke and the bright bright lights enraptured the Chicago Fire supporters packed into Section 8.
The television announcers for the visiting team, the Houston Dynamo, could not hide their excitement at the unexpected diversion in the stands during a midseason MLS match:
Suddenly, all eyes were on Section 8. The television camera stares, and those inside Section 8 see their own image on the jumbotron at the other end of the stadium. The Dynamo goalkeeper, Pat Onstad, glances nervously back as the flares pop.
One man is visible in Section 8 above the fray, the smoke wafting around him, giving him an almost spectral presence: the Capo, leading the chants, bouncing electrically on the stand just above the mayhem.
Meanwhile, inside Section 8, a seven year old is enthralled, as his father explained afterwards.
My 7 year old has been bugging me to sit in section 8. I was a regular way back in the day, but with little kids, I’ve been sitting in more sedate areas and enjoying the show you put on every game.
Last night I decided to give it a shot. We stood 3-4 rows from the top so that he could see a little bit. He fucking loved it. All of it. He was desperate to learn each song and chant. His voice is nearly gone today.
Anyway, he was having a great time and then . . . . . the flares. That put him over the top. Coolest thing ever. The only down side was that he was disappointed to learn that there wouldn’t be more flares a few minutes later.
One wonders what Piotr Nowak thought. In town for the day, the former Fire captain (now coach of the Philadelphia Union) would have remembered the burst of European ultras culture Fire supporters brought to MLS in the club’s inaugural, double-winning year, 1998. On this night, a large two pole banner bearing Nowak’s image shone in Section 8, backlit beautifully by the flares.
The flares faded into the night, security pulled supporters out, the stadium manager marched around in fury, MLS marketing and sales execs salivated, and Fire supporters had lived up to their name.