A soccer player since the age of seven and a dedicated Chicago Fire supporter since 1998, Nicholas Fedora’s love for the men in red has continued to grow since the club’s inception over a decade ago. The Matteson suburb native has been around for all of the ups and downs and has only seen his love for the Fire grow ever since he first started supporting the club. I took the opportunity to catch up with Nick and discuss what drew him to the club all those years back and what some of his highlights of supporting the Fire and being a part of Section 8 are. You can follow Nick on Twitter @Johnny_Arson.
Nick, give a quick introduction about yourself and tell us a little bit about your background?
Right now I’m living in the South Loop going to school at Columbia College studying Audio for Visual Media. I also play keyboards in my band Dressed In Decay in the south suburbs and downtown area. I grew up in the south suburb of Matteson near Frankfort and Chicago Heights.
Now onto the Chicago Fire. You’ve been a Fire supporter for a long time now, what first drew you to the club and what led you to become such a dedicated supporter?
I began playing indoor soccer when I was seven and my interest in soccer always stayed with me. The early years of MLS helped me stay interested in soccer until I heard the announcement Chicago was getting a team. From then on I tried to watch as many games as I possibly could.
I went to my first game in the summer of 1998. The Fire beat the Rapids 3-1 and Zach Thornton was the starting goalkeeper. I certainly enjoyed the game, but what really triggered my dedication was standing in Section 8 for the first time and experiencing the unified support from so many people for the first time.
You’re also an avid Fulham supporter, when did you start following Fulham and how does it compare to supporting the Fire?
My support for Fulham also took time to build. I became interested in their progress when they signed Carlos Bocanegra since I like to keep up with Fire alumni going overseas. My interest turned to support when Fulham survived The Great Escape of 2007-2008. I had never seen such incredible joy and celebration for finishing in 17th place out of 20 teams. As someone who was only casually interested in European soccer at the time I was carried away by the achievement and the emotion behind it.
Now I love the club and wouldn’t think of supporting any other English club. The incredible run to the Europa League final in 2009-2010 really galvanized that support as they had to go through the defending UEFA Cup champions, German champions, Juventus, and the host club. I felt rather strange about enthusiastically supporting a foreign club and, most especially friggin’ Clint Dempsey, but when his chip went in against Juventus to seal another come from behind win, all hesitations went out the window. His past sins have been forgiven in my eyes.
What would you describe as the highlight of your experience as a Chicago Fire supporter so far?
My highlight of a Chicago Fire supporter would be watching the team win the 2006 Open Cup at Toyota Park. I brought friends who were starting to get into the Fire to this game and it couldn’t have gone any better. I can still see the final goal where Tony Sanneh set up Andy Herron to seal the game and the wild celebrations that ensued. Later in the parking lot, I met up with Peter Wilt and his crew. We hugged and shook hands and I thanked him for everything he did for the team. He looked back at me and replied, “No, thank you.” I will never forget that. I share that story with anyone who has the privilege of meeting Mr. Wilt for the first time. He is an absolute Fire legend (and Fulham fan) and I will never forget that moment.
And the lowest point?
There aren’t many low points that I can recall, but the 4-1 home loss against FC Dallas in 2008 sticks out in my mind. It was a blazing hot 103 degree afternoon in Bridgeview and the stadium was mostly empty. Dallas scored three early goals to essentially kill the game before it began. The Fire never got going and neither did the fan support. Dallas scored again early in the second half and life was completely miserable. The only saving grace from that game was the 70-yard sprint John Thorrington made to deny another Dallas breakaway and a late Brian McBride consolation goal. Besides that, I’ve never felt more miserable to be at a Fire game.
2011 was somewhat of a mixed season for the Fire, but one that ended in a highly positive manner despite narrowly missing out on the playoffs. What are a few of the positives you took from last season?
Of course the emergence of Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo were huge additions to the club. They turned a good enough MLS team into an MLS team that can compete for trophies in the immediate future. I also liked the hold-up play from Orr Barouch and will look to see more of that throughout the 2012 season. The team also seemed to be more galvanised personally and willing to fight for each other on the field. 2011 may have been a little bit of a throwaway year, and I’m fine with that since it will yield stronger on-field results.
What are you hoping to see this season?
I have high hopes for this season. I think top 3 in the East is certainly manageable and should be a goal for Frank to set for the rest of the team. I also want to see another U.S. Open Cup final. The Cup almost came back home to Chicago last year, but this year it is a must. We have to remain Kings of the Cup and retain our dominance over everyone else.
As far as individuals go, I’d like to see Dominic Oduro have another double digit goalscoring campaign and Patrick Nyarko have a double digit assist season. With some solid finishing from his teammates, Nyarko could be at the top of the assist leaderboard. I’d also like to see Orr Barouch have a larger role in the attack and Rafael Robayo play as a box-to-box midfielder. Just imagine a midfield of Robayo and Pardo in the center with Grazzini playmaking and Nyarko and Oduro on the wings. That’s an unstoppable midfield right there. As for Pause? He wasn’t bad at right back. I’d give him another shot over there again. Also, with so many teams adding attacking players, Arne Friedrich at centerback is a vastly important signing and he should be on the field as much as possible.
You recently started writing for Hot Time In Old Town over the off-season, can you describe how you decided to enter the blogging world and how it’s treated you so far?
I never planned on being a Fire blogger, but Hot Time editor Tweed Thornton asked me to write a short response to a question and he seemed to like it a lot. A couple months later I was contacted again to write a couple full articles and since then my “trial” became an “off-season signing”. I’m very happy to contribute and, sometimes I get the impression that I can be even better if I let my personality come out more, but I’m still getting used to the whole blogging process. I love showing off my writing skills whenever I can and now I get to write about something I love dearly. I’m thoroughly enjoying writing for Hot Time in Old Town.
If you had to name a favorite player to have ever played for the Fire, who would it be? And your favorite current player?
Favorite all time player for the Fire is incredibly difficult to answer, so if I had to pick to an all time XI, my first choice would be Jesse Marsch. He was that gritty, hard-nosed midfielder that had the heart and hustle that defined the old Fire teams to me. I refer to another one of my all time favorites John Thorrington as “Jesse Marsch 2.0” because he had that same attitude of being a hard tackler and instigator when tempers started to heat up. It always brought a smile to my face to see those two get up in the face of a much larger opponent after a hard challenge on a teammate. If I had to describe my own playing personality, I would say Marsch and Thorrington would be the closest to which I could compare myself.
Currently, my favorite would be Logan Pause. I seem to like the under-appreciated, hard working midfielders who hold the team together on the field. The Logan Pause/John Thorrington pairing a few years back reminded me of the Chris Armas/Jesse Marsch pairing and it was great to see the dynamic of the gentlemanly and defensively responsible captain with the scrappy box-to-box menace again.
Who would be your dream signing for the Chicago Fire?
I don’t think I have a specific player in mind, just a top class target forward. With a lethal target forward, the Fire will be exceptional everywhere on the pitch. It would have been wonderful if the rumors about Alessandro Del Piero coming to Chicago came true because he was the first player from a European club I really started to follow. Another near signing I would have been thrilled about was Juho Makela; a big Finnish target forward that would have appealed to my fondness for the Finnish culture.
What is the most memorable match you have ever attended?
My goodness, this is a hard question. I have seen many great matches over the years and thinking of only one as the best would be impossibly difficult. Of course there’s my first match in Section 8 I wrote about on my birthday a few months ago at Hot Time, but I’m not sure if that was my favorite. There’s always my first road trip to Columbus in 2006 where the Fire won or the trip the year after with the monsoon and singing under the bleachers during the rain delay. Last year’s Open Cup final at Seattle will always be special to me because that was my first road trip outside Columbus. The match against Toronto with the 94th minute John Thorrington goal was another classic, and of course, the three legendary games against New England: the 4-0 Chi-town Beatdown season opener in 2008, the 3-0 win in the East Semi-finals of that same year and the infamous 2-0 win in the 2009 East Semi-Finals. All great memories that will forever live in my heart.
Finally, apart from watching the team play, what is your favorite thing about match days at Toyota Park?
The tailgates are always fun to catch up with friends and fans and engage in general tomfoolery. Something else that always grabs my attention is the in-stadium preview. The Fire’s AV team always does a tremendous job with their production and makes a film student like me envious of the people to have such a great job and do it so well. That past two seasons where they used film score music made me flip with joy.