Black Saturday: Fire Fans Protest Owner, Front Office

chicago_fire_fans_1_1280x960Saturday night’s home match for the Chicago Fire was one I won’t soon forget, but not because of the play on the field.

The 1-0 loss to the lowly Colorado Rapids was disappointing, but not surprising given Chicago’s season-long free-fall into the abyss of the MLS standings. Perhaps it’s fitting that the evening’s highlight was a protest staged by supporter group Section 8 aiming to show the growing discontent among fans toward Chicago’s owner, Andrew Hauptman, the front office and the product on the field.

Those who regularly attend or watch matches should have noticed the absence of the fanatic section around kickoff time. On match days, one can usually hear the sounds and songs of Section 8 ringing out in anticipation of the oncoming match, right on through to the final whistle. On Saturday, the bulk of the section boycotted by staying in the parking lot for most of the match to partake in a 90-minute tailgate.

Though the section was filled throughout most of the match, it was almost silent compared to the usual Section 8 treatment. Many of the section’s regulars came in toward the end of the match clad with all-black attire, banners and flags. As the 90-minute mark approached, the disgruntled section unloaded two solid black tifos across the section as a show of protest. The massive black tarps soon began crowd surfing across Toyota Park’s terraces, at which point many seemed confused.

I got that feeling from the crowd throughout the match, particularly with the neighboring sections. To be fair, the 18,000-plus had a good showing and were pretty upbeat considering the dreadful state of the club. There seemed to be frustration and confusion early on from other fans as to what was happening in Section 8 and why. At one point, even Chicago winger David Accam seemed to notice the lack of decibels from the usually noisy section, as he implored the Harlem End to make some noise, emphatically throwing his arms toward the heavens after a deflected shot.

Realistically, this protest was no shining example of organization and solidarity. There was a plan and it was followed through, but it didn’t call much attention to specific grievances for neutral or uninformed fans watching. At this point, it should be obvious why people are so upset, but I guarantee that most people in attendance Saturday weren’t aware that Section 8 was staging a protest. Also, I personally think the tifos just looked like two big trash bags waving around, but what do I know?

It remains to be seen how effective this or future protests could be in positively impacting the club. But, as I told one of my colleagues in the press box wondering what good any of it would do, the most loyal fans are pissed off and their love for club creates a need to vocalize frustrations, especially when a chief complaint is lack of transparency and communication from the top down. For instance, one of the antagonizing banners in Section 8 Saturday accused owner Andrew Hauptman of being out of touch. It read “Hey Hauptman, how’s L.A.?” since the owner and businessman spends most of his time away from Bridgeview and Chicago.

Section 8 Unleashes All-Black Tifo Display in Protest  of Front Office

Section 8 Unleashes All-Black Tifo Display in Protest of Front Office

Once the giant, black tifos started snaking through other sections, people began talking and asking questions, regardless of whether or not they knew what it meant, or if they (many being young kids) even knew who Andrew Hauptman is and why he and the front office are a source of controversy among supporters. Maybe it clicked for the fans when yet another home loss against a mediocre opponent sent the crowd home jeering in disappointment.

Protest Or Not, This Club Simply Can Not Win Right Now

The protesting Section 8 has some work to do if it wants to unite the fan base in solidarity against the current ownership. However, the resounding boos raining down from the stands at the final whistle signaled a natural moment of unity among all supporters, albeit painful. After all, this latest 1-0 loss at home came against bottom-feeding Colorado, a club that could muster only two sots on target all night.

Chicago dominated the match, but like many other games this year there was nothing to show for it. The Fire out-shot the visiting Rapids 20 to 9 on the evening, and controlled possession throughout the match with 68 percent to Colorado’s 32. The Fire created several chances throughout the match that any professional player ought to finish, but again, this is nothing new for Chicago and its loyal but disheartened supporters.

The club is now winless in its last four matches, and has only won two of its last nine in all competitions. Chicago will host a dangerous New York Red Bulls team on Wednesday, August 26, for a crucial eastern conference matchup, and the last home match before a three-game road trip. (CSN Chicago Plus 7:30 p.m. CT)

Quotes and Reaction to Protest

 Harry Shipp on his thoughts of the protestors

 “You can’t blame them. They want to support a team that’s doing well on the field, and the last couple of years we haven’t been able to get it done. For us, we just hope they keep supporting us and recognizing we’re doing everything possible. We’re not sleeping well at night. We’re coming in and it’s miserable for us to be here not doing well because it’s our livelihood. Hopefully they recognize that and hopefully they know we want to do well just as much as they want us to do well.”

Shipp on his night’s assignment and return to a central attacking midfield role

 “[Colorado’s players] do crowd the middle so much, so for me it was going side to side and getting the ball in little pockets out wide and trying to create overloads on both the right and left side.”

“I know I’m doing well if guys are able to create on the outside and guys are getting the ball running towards goal and able to create shots. I can always do a better job of that and hopefully I’ll get more chances to prove that.”

Shipp on Saturday’s result

 “The way we’ve played this year we don’t necessarily deserve any luck, but tonight I thought there were times where we were a little bit unlucky.”

Patrick Nyarko on his perspective of the Section 8 Protest From the Field

“I was really focused on the game so I didn’t really see, but I think Section 8 and the fans that showed up and the attendance today shows that they’re still behind the team. We just need to reward them and provide them with exciting times when they come here.”

Nyarko on Saturday’s Result and Moving Forward

“I thought we played excellent, we just couldn’t unlock the defense. We need to pick ourselves up Wednesday and start a run.”

Nyarko on Head Collision With Rapids Goalkeeper Clint Irwin

“I’m feeling a little woozy. I think adrenaline carried me through most of the game but my eyes started shutting a little bit at the end there. Hopefully I can get some treatment and it will go away.”

Frank Yallop on Saturday’s Result and Club’s Current Status

“We couldn’t get the goal I thought we probably deserved.”

“Giving up an early goal like that is never good for any team, especially at home when we’re desperate to win the match. I thought the guys gave everything they had and they couldn’t get it done tonight.”

“I don’t think team selection was the problem. Us missing chances and obviously giving up a goal early was the problem.”

“We’re trying to do the right thing. We’re trying to create chances and trying to score goals. It seems that every team that plays against us has not as many chances as we create or get and seem to score goals.”

“When you’re losing you want to look at everything. When you’re winning you just say, ‘well done guys, that’s great,’ but maybe there’s stuff missing when you’re winning, too. But obviously, we’re not winning.”

Yallop on Chicago’s Playoff Hopes

“We’ve got to win at least seven now. Can we do it? Yes. Is it likely? It’s going to be tough. But we can’t stop believing till it’s over.”