When Terry Stefankiewicz started hosting a soccer festival in 1996, he envisioned gaining some local attention for his very good IPFW men's team. He invited Indiana, Alabama-Birmingham and Marquette for a weekend of games in the Memorial Stadium outfield.
Despite some excellent contests, only around 3,500 fans showed up but Stefankiewicz didn't get discouraged. Today the Shindigz National Soccer Festival has become a nationally recognized annual event, with at least triple the attendance, and Stefankiewicz has to turn down Top 10 teams every year. Stefankiewicz, 62, needs a bigger tournament because now he has international goals.
``I'm continuing to dream,'' said Stefankiewicz, now the women's coach at Trine University.
At the start, this whole thing sounded like a middle-of-the-night vision after eating spicy food right before bed. If Stefankiewicz had limited his expectations in any way, the skeptics would have won and soccer would have lost its premier regular-season college event. Not even direct relatives or overbearing bosses can successfully tell Stefankiewicz ``No.'' He just finds other ways to do things.
Every year something new is added, and this year's event at IPFW's Hefner Soccer Complex is going to be like Christmas morning for soccer fans. There's a new scoreboard sponsored by Frontier Communications which allows instant replay for each match. There's also a set of 2,000 new bleachers and a nationally televised match on Fox Soccer Channel. The midway will also be loaded with new venders.
The biggest addition is the reserve team of Mexican pro club team Chivas of Guadalajara. Chivas will play Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Thursday and Indiana at 7 p.m. Saturday. As usual, Stefankiewicz blames his old IU coach Jerry Yeagley for creating more work for him.
``Two years ago we were standing around on a Sunday while Indiana was doing their clinic for us, and he came over with his arms crossed, and very quietly said, `You know, everybody in the country knows about the festival now. It's time to get a pro team in here,' '' Stefankiewicz said. ``And here we are.''
Actually, it wasn't quite that easy, though, requiring six months of mailed contracts and lots of interpreters for the lawyers.
Besides playing, the Chivas players are also making appearances and hosting clinics all over Allen County. They'll be at Foster Park at 11:30 a.m. Friday, and at Kreager Park at 10 a.m. Saturday.
With former national champions like North Carolina signed up for next year, international professional club teams and national TV, the real perspective of the event comes a little closer to home. An area high school team scheduled too many matches for the season and called earlier this week to say it was dropping out. When the kids found out, they protested enough that the school decided to drop another regular-season match instead.
Because of the popularity, luckily, Stefankiewicz now has more than 150 volunteers to help. Though he may be getting a little tired, he'll catch his next energy burst as soon as the event starts Thursday. He'll be running around all over the place, often forgetting where he parked his golf cart.
``This thing is just taking off,'' he said. ``This is above and beyond anything I've ever dreamed of.''
Don't believe it. He's still got bigger brainstorms to try.
``Everybody wants us to get a European B team in here like Manchester United or somebody,'' Stefankiewicz said. ``That's what we're trying to do. We're opening some doors. My swan song would be to switch from a college event to having four big-name club teams come and play here. I'm not sure we could handle it, but that would be the icing on the cake.''
Couldn't handle it? He must be dreaming.