During the early-to-mid 90s Green White fielded very strong teams.
It all culminated in 1994; a very important year not only for Green White, but for soccer in America. It was the year the World Cup was played here. Several members of the US Men's National Team came out to the Green White fields at Majewski (including starter Paul Caligiuri), and met some of our youth teams (photo). That's a moment that those boys will never forget.
That was not the only exciting event at Metro Majewski Park. A group of well known and soon-to-be well known players gathered for a match on the main field by the Green White clubhouse that same summer. It was probably the most famous group of players ever assembled to play on that field. Gus Bender helped arrange the match that was quietly billed as a "Friendly Amherst College Almuni Reunion game". But it was much more than that. The match actually pitted Amherst Alumni from 1979-1981 against a group of French Nationals. The most famous person on the pitch was Prince Albert of Monaco. He graduated from Amherst in 1980, and is now the ruler of Monaco (ever his father Prince Rainer died in 2005. His mother was Grace Kelly) Also playing (and scoring) that day was Jerome De Bontin. He graduated from Amherst in 1981, and later became the President of Monaco.
The friendly also saw former Yugolasivan and Croatian National Team player and coach Zlatko Kranjcar and his then 10-year-old son Niko tale the field. The father's playing career spanned 18 years, and his son followed in his footsteps, playing for EPL team Portsmouth (among others) and the Croatian National Team. Manning the goal that day was Georges Carnus who was a member of the French team that competed in the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England, and Jean Luc Ettori, another French keeper who played professionally with AS Monaco and was capped by his National Team nine times.
It was a very heady time, and Green White's performance on the field was in perfect sync with the moment. The First Team stormed through the indoor season in the very tough Major Division of the Metro League. Coach Marcus Laxgang remembers that team fondly. "That was a special year because we had such a good mix of new young players mixing in with older long time players."
Bernie Czekajlo was one of the younger players on that team, and remembers both the pressure, and the motivation provided by Green White's enthusiastic supporters at the Odeum.
"We had to answer to them after each game and practice," he says now, explaining how they helped. "Who wanted to face Mr Zimmer in the locker room after a loss? Or Mr. Metzinger. Or worse, Mrs. Zimmer, Moni and Tina. (Laughs) The fan section at the Odeum that I recall always being there included Mrs. Kaempfer and Cindy, Mr and Mrs. Horst Melcher, Mr. Mrs Walter Melcher, the Kowalskis, the Bischoffs, The Czops, The Metzingers, the Meschbachs, and our girlfriends and fiancees."
"We didn't start out well," Laxgang admits, but the team eventually gelled by playing together as much as possible. "We tried to make the practices competitive by training for an hour and then scrimmaging--usually against the Croatians who also won the lower league championship."
The race for the Metro League Indoor Title came down to the wire. Pegasus, Eagles, United Serbs and Green White battled it out all season long, but in the end it came down to a two team race between Pegasus and Green White. In the penultimate game of the season, the two sides met on the Odeum floor. The contest was tense and riveting. Goalkeeper (and 1994 team MVP) Kurt Melcher vividly remembers the moment.
"The indoor game versus Pegasus - second to last game - was epic. We needed a win or tie to keep the top spot. We were losing by one goal and we pulled the keeper (me) for the last minute to try to get a goal. I remember this like yesterday - With time winding down - Robbie Meschbach had the ball on top of the indoor box and dribbled forward. We had all players forward in good attacking positions - 99% of the time he would have taken the shot, but this time he played a perfect diagonal pass to Danny V just to the left side of the goal. With 1 second left Danny one touched it in the goal and we tied. We beat Lightening the next week and won the league!"
Presenting the victorious 1994 champs...Front Row (left to right): Mark Laxgang, Robert Meschbach, Stuart Davidson, Danny Vlaovic, Kurt Melcher, Wally Melcher, Brian Bischoff, Mike Duffy. Back Row (left to right): Rod Hogan, Tom Czop, Chris Ryan, Peter Kaempfer, Mike Byrne, Karsten Roy (son of longtime Chicago Sting coach Willi Roy), John Wolfe, Bernie Czekaljo. Not Pictured: Ron Knestrict. Team Coach: Mark Laxgang.
Green White Off The Field
Several players and teams were honored at the Sepp Herberger Sport, Radio, and Press ball every year during this era. The 1992 Old Timers team was named the team of the year. Green White team MVPs Peter Kaempfer (1993) and Kurt Melcher (1994) represented the First Team. And Green White ladies Tracey Pope ('94), Elizabeth Obrecht ('93), and Lisa Knaub ('92) served as Miss Green White. Green White member Rick Kaempfer served as the Master of Ceremonies.
The World Cup
The opening ceremonies of the 1994 World Cup are held in Chicago. It doesn't exactly start smoothly. Oprah Winfrey falls through a hole in the stage, and twists her ankle. A few moments later Motown superstar Diana Ross does the ceremonial first kick of the ball, and misses the net.
It goes better from there. The US Team advances to the second round for the first time in many decades.
The final game is played in Los Angeles. The game between Italy and Brazil goes to penalty kicks...
In Pop Culture
The number one song in 1992 is Boyz II Men's - End Of The Road
The number one song in 1993 is Whitney Houston's - I Will Always Love You
The number one song in 1994 is Ace Of Base's - The Sign
Elsewhere in the News
~William Jefferson Clinton is elected President of the United States in 1992, and begins serving his office in 1993.
~John Wayne Bobbit becomes a nationally known figure for one of the worst reasons imaginable.
~The 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer features the off-the-ice drama of Tonya Harding's ex-husband hiring someone to club her rival Nancy Kerrigan on the knee. Both skate, and neither win the Gold.
Coming next time: The mid-to-late 90s.
As always, if you have any thing to add or correct in this month’s installment, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.