A blog dedicated to chronicling the history of SC Green White, a soccer club founded in Chicago in 1956.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


In 1988 Rudi Mayer’s long playing career with Green White ended after 28 great years. To commemorate the year 1988 in Green White history, we thought it would be fun to reconnect with Rudi and discuss his incredible soccer career.

GW: When did you start at Green White, and how did you hear about it?

Rudi Mayer: I heard about them because my dad went to the First Team games, and I played with the kids at the games who were all players with the Green White Juveniles. And they always asked “Why aren’t you playing with us?” I said “Because my mom won’t let me.” (laughs) She was afraid I was going to get hurt. My dad and uncle put some pressure on her, and she finally agreed, so I started playing indoors in 1960. We were practicing in a gym on Barry in Chicago.

GW: What are some fond memories from your Green White youth days?

Rudi Mayer: Some years we would win lots of games, sometimes 15-0, 10-0. And then some years we would lose games like that. It all depended on how many good players we had. At that time Juveniles were ages 7 to 15. We had 7 year olds playing against 14 year olds sometimes. I was 12 when I started.

GW: Who were the players that you looked up to when you were young?

Rudi Mayer: I didn’t really learn what soccer was all about until I was a little older, but when I really began to understand the game, I looked up to guys like Steve Zimmer and Steve Laxgang. Those guys were very good players. Toni Zimmer. Gottfried Winter. I watched them all every Sunday with my dad. That was our Sunday thing to do.

GW: Do you remember the first time you got to play with the first team?

Rudi Mayer: Oh yes I do. I remember it vividly. I had just turned 17. This was the spring before the team went to Europe and they decided they wanted some more players for the First Team and they decided I was ready, so they asked my father if I could play. He resisted it for a long time. I was a lot smaller than a lot of the guys on the first team, and he didn’t think I was ready. The games were pretty rough back then. In the end, Peter Erhardt, who was the coach at the time, talked my dad into it. Adi and Georgy Kaempf were on the team at the time. Klaus. Joe Laxgang. Steve Zimmer. I had a junior game in the morning, and they had me dress for the First Team in the afternoon at Hansen Stadium. In the second half they put me in. They put me on right wing, and I got a through ball on the right side, and the center back came across and knocked the s**t out of me. He didn’t try to tackle me, he just ran me over. He knew I was going to get past him and that he wasn’t going to be able to catch me, so he hit me so hard, I think I was knocked out for a second. I had to come out of the game. I think I played three or four minutes, and touched the ball twice. That was my first game. That was against the Liths. They had a big center back. Really big. I was young and thin and fast and he knew he wasn’t going to catch me. So he floored me.

GW: So did you go on that trip to Germany shortly thereafter?

Rudi Mayer: Yeah, I got to go on that trip. And that was great. It was a lot of fun playing against these Germans who thought the Americans couldn’t play. On that trip we played five games against first division amateur teams, and we won four and tied one. I got to start all five of those games at either center forward or right wing, and in those five games I scored eight goals. That was a riot. In hindsight, though, I think I played really badly. I was more lucky than anything. The Germans were better ball handlers and I was in the right spot at the right time. Of those eight goals, probably three of them were breakaways. They underestimated our whole team. They played possession, so they played in our half. Adi told me to just wait at the half line, and when he got the ball he just pointed at me and sent the ball, and I had at least three breakaways that way. (Photo: The Green White Germany Trip Group)

GW: Did you have any mentors in the Green White organization?

Rudi Mayer: Oh everybody, they all mentored me, but I think Adi Kaempf is probably the guy who helped me the most. He really mentored me and took me under his wing.

GW: You played in the 60s, 70s, and 80s with the first team. Do any highlights from each of those decades come to mind?

Rudi Mayer: We won a few championships indoors and one outdoors too. I remember that year we won it at Welles Park. We were demoted to the First Division and took it personally, and killed everyone, and then we made it back up to the Major Division and kept on winning. I got to play with my brother, which was great. He also started on the First Team when he was 17. That Green White Junior team he was on was really really good. That whole team kind of came up and replaced the existing First Team. I went from being the youngest player on the team to being the oldest just five years later. It was a lot of fun. (Photo: The Mayer Brothers)

GW: You were also named Player of the Year a few times during your Green White career. Was it two or three times?

Rudi Mayer: I was the Player of the Year three times. I got to meet the National Team coach of Germany—he handed me the Player of the Year Award. Actually, I got to meet two of them. Sepp Herberger handed me the award the first time I won it, and Helmut Schoen handed it to me the second time. That was a huge thrill. Uwe Seeler was one of my idols and he was there the last time I won it.

GW: You also played at Michigan State.

Rudi Mayer: I played there from 1968-1972. That team had great players. Olympic players from the U.S, Jamaica, and Canada. My first year there we won the National Championship.

GW: Did you ever play for the Olympic Team?

Rudi Mayer: I did make the Olympic team in 1972. However, even though I was named to the team, I broke my ankle skiing in January, and they started playing games in the spring. They left me on the roster hoping that I would get fit enough by the time we played in the actual Olympic games in June, but I barely had gotten my cast off by then. It was a serious break in my ankle. So I did get to practice with them, but not in the games.

GW: You also played for the Chicago Sting.

Rudi Mayer: Yes, I did. 1976 and 1977, I believe. I went to the tryouts and Bill Foulkes, a former Manchester United defender, was the coach. He asked me to be a part of the team, and I said yes. We played indoors and outdoors at the time. The outdoor games were at Soldier Field. It was always empty, except when we played against the Cosmos with Pele. Then we had 40,000 in the house.

GW: At that time most of the players on the Sting were English, weren’t they?

Rudi Mayer: Yes. I was one of the few non-English players on the team. The coach was using the team as a farm club for Manchester United. So my passing was a little too short. I didn’t play that English style of kicking the long ball and running people over. I was more a finesse player, and the coach didn’t really like that. I remember I started the first game of the season. We were playing the Tampa Ray Rowdies, and he didn’t tell us who was starting until two minutes before we walked out on the field, and he said: “OK, Rudi, you’re playing center back” I had never played that position before in my life. I wasn’t prepared at all. And who do we play against? We played against Rodney Marsh, an English National Team player, and Clyde Best who was a Jamaican National Team player. Those were their two center forwards. I had to cover Rodney Marsh. I thought, “Wow, he’s a great player and great ball handler”, but I did really well against him. Except for one time I took the ball away from him and passed it to my fellow back Alex, and Alex rather than stepping up and taking the ball, stepped even further back, which meant that Rodney Marsh got between us. He got the ball, out-dribbled Alex, and scored. I got blamed for the goal and was taken out of the game. And that was it. The coach never liked me after that. I played various different positions but couldn’t really work my way into a regular starting position.

GW: Did you ever try out for the U.S. National Team.

Rudi Mayer: Yes I did. I can’t recall exactly what year it was. Early 70s sometime. The tryouts were in St. Louis and they took mostly St. Louis players, but I believe they did take a player from the Lions and Schwaben, but nearly the whole team came from St. Louis.

GW: I’ve interviewed a lot of the old timers at Green White, and they swear that the quality of soccer back in those days was vastly superior than the quality we see today. What do you think of that assessment?

Rudi Mayer: I think the quality of the soccer then was better than it is now in the Metro League, although the current crop of Metro League guys are more fit and run more—most of them are right out of college and they’re used to that. Our team wasn’t as fast, and we weren’t as fit. But our creativity, the quality of passing, the playmaking, the imagination, and finesse was very good in those days. Our quality at that time was more on the level of the MLS today—again, without the fitness and the speed. Don’t forget that we had pros coming from Europe routinely playing in our league at the time. Guys who were in their late 20s/early 30s, that might have been just past their prime or didn’t get the big contracts in Europe. The Croatians had five National Team players at one time. The Maroons had good players. Adolf Bachmeier from the Kickers—he was my idol for a long time. I thought he was the best German player ever to play in Chicago.

GW: So what made you decide it was time to hang it up with Green White after nearly three decades?

Rudi Mayer: 1988 was the year my daughter was born. I figured I had to be home to hold her. No more practicing. By that time I was 38, and without practicing three times a week, I couldn’t keep up with the 24 year olds anymore. It was time.

GW: What has Green White meant to you?

Rudi Mayer: That was my second family. I knew everybody. Everybody knew me. It was just great being there. We were all friends, really. Even though there were age differences, when we got together it didn’t matter if you were 21 and the guy you were playing with was 33, it didn’t matter. You were buddies. You liked each other. You played for each other. We fought for each other. The spectators were always there for us—the members who came out to support the team—they really made us want to play well. We wanted to win for them, to make them proud, to give them the kind of team they wanted. There were 400 of them—and they were our extended family. It was a great feeling and I really miss it.

More from 1988

*An Illinois Soccer Hall of Famer Robert Meschbach was Green White's MVP and player of the year in 1988.

*Club Co-founder Adam Harjung's daughter Laura served as Miss Green White.

Elsewhere in Soccer

USSR faced the Netherlands in the European Cup final (in Germany). The Netherlands were victorious, 2-0.

In Pop Culture

*The number one song of the year was "Faith" by George Michael.

*The Academy Award for best picture was given to "Rain Man"

*The top rated television show of 1988 was "The Cosby Show"

Elsewhere in 1988

~The 1988 Winter Olympics were held in Calgary Alberta.

~Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North and Vice Admiral John Poindexter were indicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

~Sonny Bono was elected Mayor of Palm Springs.

~The 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea.

~Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush defeated Massachusets Governor Michael Dukakis to become President of the United States.

Coming next month: 1989.

As always, if you have any thing to add or correct in this month’s installment, please drop me a line at amishrick@yahoo.com. I consider this a group project, and a work in progress, so we can add and subtract until we get it all exactly correct. If you have photos you’d like to contribute, please do.