The game of indoor soccer has some of the most diehard fans in all of the beautiful game. Cleveland’s own Shawn Bartczak is one of those true supporters even though the ride called pro indoor soccer hasn’t been easy.
The indoor game has always been exciting, especially when large crowds create a circus-like atmosphere and a sport that is truly American. The biggest criticism of soccer amongst casual fans has always been a lack of goals, but that is certainly not the case here.
Bartczak has followed the game since the Cleveland Force (1978-1988) and Cleveland Crunch (1989-2005) were the talk of the Forest City. Richfield Coliseum saw some of the biggest names in the game: Hector Marinaro, Otto Orf, Zoran Karić, the list goes on and on.
Bartczak enjoyed his time at the Coliseum, seeing record crowds and meeting the players after the game. He also traveled south to Canton to see the Canton Invaders at the Memorial Civic Center.
“Canton had a family atmosphere,” Bartczak declared. “You got to know a lot of the players. It really was a small hometown team.”
But the meteoric rise of indoor leagues soon experienced a drastic fall, one that saw the game almost disappear completely as both Cleveland franchises folded and the Invaders became nothing more than a memory.
A new MISL and an upstart PASL would eventually appear on the soccer landscape, two attempts at reviving the magic that once surrounded the sport of indoor soccer. The MISL would go the way of a true pro league, while the PASL tried to create a “blue-collar league.”
“The PASL has a lot of scoring, the games are exciting,” Bartczak continued. “All the guys work hard; they are working regular jobs.”
Bartczak has done his part to promote the league, covering games and even leading online broadcasts. His sole goal: to make sure the league gains more exposure and in return, more fans and a chance at longevity.
Part-time pros dominated the PASL for years, but soccer dynasties like the San Diego Sockers have turned the tide. The Sockers fought their way to a perfect season, dominating opponents with a mix of youth and big-name veterans.
“Both of their keepers are great,” Bartczak concluded. “They dominated Detroit in the championship game. You couldn’t ask for a better game.”
The indoor game has a bright future thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of fans like Bartczak. It won’t be an easy ride, but it will certainly be interesting.
Pelé is unquestionably the world’s greatest soccer ambassador, spreading his love of the Beautiful Revolution wherever he goes. He has become the game’s strongest supporter and has been the source of inspiration for millions around the globe. From the streets of New York to the fields of South Africa, Pelé Sports is a name synonymous with passion, creativity and innovating the game the way it should be played. A world without Pelé would be a world without soccer with millions missing out on the joy and the Beautiful Revolution we all love in this game.
Today’s supporters carry on the prestigious legacy of Pelé, growing and promoting the game in their own communities and passing the torch to a new generation of footballers. Mainstream media outlets have failed to give a face to these fans, people who do extraordinary things everyday and have stories that deserve to be told. Whether it is an Iraqi War veteran who is a passionate supporter of his favorite MLS side or a student making an impact on the college game, the concept of ambassadorship is alive and well here in North America. Today’s supporters are not hooligans or fanatics or even überfans, but rather gatekeepers to the true spirit of the beautiful game.
International Soccer Network, in conjunction with Pelé Sports, plans to celebrate the contributions of North American soccer fans every month with a new series of feature articles.