The Chicago History Museum's grand banquet hall is overflowing with nearly 500 Chicago Fire Soccer Club fans, bubbling with excitement at the club's supporter-organized 15th-anniversary celebration. The room's layout (long, narrow) is not ideal for speeches, but speeches certainly have to be made because of the occasion, a special one for the club and the city: October 8 marks the date of both the start of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, out of whose ashes the modern city was built, and the date in 1997 when Fire general manager Peter Wilt unveiled the club's name and identity on Navy Pier. Friends are catching up, glasses are clinking, the festivities are bubbling over.
Hristo Stoichkov strides up to the podium, and the room falls silent. He speaks slowly, deliberately, without expression but with intensity. He talks one sentence at a time in Spanish (he played in Spain for seven years), pausing to allow former Fire head coach Denis Hamlett to translate bit by bit, meaningful words drawn from his stony, stern countenance. "This is one of the best clubs I played for," the former Barcelona, Fire, CSKA Sofia, and World Cup star concludes, weighing his words appropriately for the audience.