Growing A New Generation Of Soccer Fans

There was a lot to like at the Staples boys soccer team’s FCIAC championship match last Wednesday.

It was our 3rd straight league title — our 4th in the past 5 years, and 27th in the 48-year history of the FCIAC tournament.

Brendan Lesch and Frankie Bergonzi celebrate Lesch's goal in the FCIAC championship. Their excitement was matched by the fans'. (Photo by Carl McNair)

Our guys gutted out a victory against a tough Fairfield Warde team — particularly gratifying because we started the year with 2 early losses, amid fears we’d lost our focus, passion and pride.

But what was especially exciting to me — as coach I’ve got to look ahead, even in the midst of a satisfying season — was the broad spectrum of ages represented among the 2,000 fans in the Norwalk High stands .

A loud, jubilant contingent from Staples cheered on their friends, of course.  Plenty of parents, too, lent outstanding support.

But there were also soccer alumni from as far back as the 1960s — and so many kids, as young as 6, 8 and 10 years old.

Each “generation” of Staples fans grows up watching older players.  It happened in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, and it’s happening now in the ’10s.

Young guys know the Wreckers’ names.  They mimic their heroes’ moves.  They dream of the day they’ll wear the Staples “S.”

But here’s the intriguing part:  Plenty of those kids are the sons of former players — who themselves were once kids, yearning to be Staples stars.

Dan Donovan grew up watching Ken Murphy play.  Andy Udell grew up watching Dan Donovan play.  On Friday night Ken (now the Connecticut College coach) was in the stands.  So were Dan and Andy — and their sons Patrick and Johnny Donovan, and Max Udell.

A few years from now, Patrick, Johnny and Max may take the field for Staples in a championship game.  And (I should live so long) an even younger generation of players — those not yet born — may be there then, dreaming of becoming the next Patrick or Johnny Donovan, or Max Udell.

That’s the ageless magic of Staples soccer.

(The boys soccer team opens it defense of the state championship tomorrow [Monday, Nov. 8], 2 p.m. at Staples.  Sure, it’s during school — but maybe Patrick, Johnny and Max can get out early to watch their heroes play?)

Part of the enormous crowd at the FCIAC finals. Staples fans traditionally wear white -- for a "whiteout" -- at big Wrecker soccer games. (Photo by Carl McNair)

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