Soccer Over Breakfast

Five years of Chicago-Hamburg soccer relations

Over breakfast at Lou Mitchell´s, a restaurant as fabled as its location near the start of Route 66, Mr. Stephan Hildebrandt, director of the HSV Nachwuchsleistungzentrum, and Frank Pieper, coach, along with Hamburg Sister City vice-chair Christoph Lichtenfeld discussed the past five years of Chicago-Hamburg soccer relations.

Between sips of orange juice, Hildebrand observed that he has been in Chicago nine times and that while he is all about scouting new talent and is very impressed with the areas teams, coaches and of course players, he also likes to wander among the city´s many tall buildings and recalls fondly his several visits to the Art Institute of Chicago whose collections he very much admires.

Hildebrand´s visit to Chicago was at the invitation of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association to participate for the fourth time in the IYSA Expo with training demonstrations and to present a ‚Hamburg and HSV‘ expo booth. Many of the soccer players participating in this Soccer Expo participate in the Olympic Development Program of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association. These players are among the finest soccer players in Illinois. Over eggs over easy Hamburg Sister City vice-chair Christoph Lichtenfeld, talked about how this year Hamburg had, for the fi rst time, a booth at the Expo focusing on marketing sports information from Hamburg. Four years in the making, the result is an even closer tie to the Illinois Youth Soccer Association, a working together that Hamburg´s Hildebrand finds particularly rewarding and is calling the „HSV and Sister City Initiative“.

While in Chicago, Hildebrand met with Tom King, Director of Administration of the U.S. Soccer Federation, to discuss plans for the U-15 Youth American National Team to participate in the Chicago Youth Soccer Cup next year. The close cooperation with Chicago´s youth soccer scene made the HSV take a look at the whole youth soccer potential in the USA. This led to Benny Failhaber becoming one of the first youth U.S. players to turn pro in Germany for the HSV while also gaining wide recognition in the U.S. Hildebrand is also hopeful that another U.S. player, Preston Zimmerman, contracted to the HSV, now on the rise, will also gain international status.

As we sipped our last coffee, Hildebrand went on about how teams in Hamburg and other leading soccer cities around the world have youth programs that prepare the fi nest players from early youth on for this international sport – the sport with the most viewers and participants worldwide. Hildebrandt and Pieper will return in late July, 2007 with a U-15 HSV soccer team for the Chicago Youth Soccer Cup. The players will be hosted by Chicago families.

Over a three-hour dinner, Mayor Daley had several conversations with Dr. Freytag about Hafen City and the Hamburg green bus system and other environmental issues confronting both cities. Mayor Daley was also keen on learning more about Chicago Square and the involvement of Chicago based architects in its competition. Of course, Dr. Freytag filled him in all the details and other aspects of Hamburg´s leadership in things green. The next day Rolf Achilles delivered to the Mayors office various publications relating to Hafen City.