The sup­port­ing news

Chicago Lo­cal 134 roots for the Red Stars and prides it­self on in­clu­siv­ity

Chicago Sun-Times - - RED STARS BEAT - BY AN­NIE COSTABILE | acosta­bile@sun­times.com | @an­niecosta­bile

Be­fore the pan­demic and so­cially dis­tanced view­ing par­ties, Chicago Lo­cal 134 lead or­ga­nizer Mag­gie Dz­i­ubek helped set up a con­cert for Red Stars for­ward Yuki Na­gasato.

Mem­bers of Lo­cal 134 and the Red Stars piled into The Fron­tier, a cozy theater in Edge­wa­ter, to hear Na­gasato on drums for Bruised and Bro­ken Band.

None of them knew it then, but that night would be the last in-per­son in­ter­ac­tion Lo­cal 134 would have with the team for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

“We like to re­fer to it as the last good thing that hap­pened,” Dz­i­ubek said.

In the last year, Lo­cal 134 mem­ber­ship has dou­bled, grow­ing from 130 pay­ing mem­bers to 270. It costs $20 for a year­long mem­ber­ship, which in­cludes small Red Stars swag items and in­side ac­cess to a com­mu­nity built on a pas­sion for women’s soc­cer.

NWSL sup­port­ers groups are grow­ing right along­side the league, and for the loyal fans who’ve been there since the be­gin­ning, it’s im­pos­si­ble to de­scribe the sense of pride as­so­ci­ated with that growth.

One thing is cer­tain, it doesn’t go un­no­ticed by NWSL play­ers.

“Our league wouldn’t be here with­out them, so for me when I play, I’m play­ing for them in par­tic­u­lar,” Red Stars mid­fielder Danielle Co­laprico said. “All of us Red Stars feel that way about Lo­cal 134. We want to put on a show for our fans to give them some­thing to get be­hind and sup­port.”

Lo­cal 134 was founded in 2008 and fol­lowed the Red Stars from their time in the Women’s Pro­fes­sional Soc­cer league through to their mem­ber­ship in the NWSL. Ni­cole Hack, a cur­rent mem­ber of the Fire’s Sec­tion 8 sup­port­ers group, was one of the orig­i­nal lead or­ga­niz­ers of Lo­cal 134.

In the early days of Lo­cal 134, Hack said the group was run­ning with lit­tle to no sup­port. There were no mem­ber­ship fees to help fund group events, and de­spite it be­ing free to join, mem­ber­ship was al­most nonex­is­tent.

“In the ear­lier days, num­bers were small,” Hack said. “The game was just start­ing, and it was dif­fi­cult to get fans and sup­port­ers out to games. So it’s ex­cit­ing to see the dy­namic of what Lo­cal 134 has done to grow the game.”

Eight years into the NWSL, Lo­cal 134 is cel­e­brat­ing its growth while also hold­ing on to its coun­ter­cul­ture tra­di­tions.

Sup­port­ers groups in the NWSL aren’t sim­ply highly ded­i­cated fans, they also cham­pion hu­man rights in their com­mu­ni­ties. Lo­cal 134 prides it­self on in­clu­siv­ity, stand­ing firmly against racism, sex­ism, ho­mo­pho­bia and trans­pho­bia.

Dz­i­ubek is cog­nizant of the prin­ci­ples that NWSL sup­port­ers groups were founded on and tries to en­sure those aren’t lost as women’s soc­cer gains more main­stream sup­port.

“Be­cause Amer­i­can soc­cer sup­port­ing is such a sub­cul­ture, it rep­re­sents some­thing out­side of the main­stream,” Dz­i­ubek said. “Women’s soc­cer takes that a step fur­ther. It is an in­her­ently po­lit­i­cal act and fem­i­nist choice to in­vest in this league.”

The same way NWSL play­ers com­pete on the field, sup­port­ers groups en­gage in friendly com­pe­ti­tion of their own.

The sup­port­ers groups have de­vel­oped unique cul­tures based on their spe­cific mar­kets. Lo­cal 134, for ex­am­ple, em­bod­ies the same blue-col­lar work ethic as the Red Stars, and its name pays trib­ute to the city’s deep sense of pride in union his­tory. When the NWSL re­sumes in 2020 or 2021, Lo­cal 134 has plans of its own to be the best in the league.

“Our goal is to take down the Rivet­ers as the strong­est, largest sup­port­ers group in the NWSL,” Dz­i­ubek said. “We feel like we can take that from them, so, hon­estly, we’re build­ing to­ward that.” ✶

DANIEL BARTEL/ISI PHO­TOS

For­ward Yuki Na­gasato has some fun with mem­bers of Chicago Lo­cal 134, the Red Stars’ sup­port­ers group.

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