When her father tucked her in while growing up, Baltimore soccer standout Ali Andrzejewski would ask him to repeat the same bedtime story.
Gary Andrzejewski would recount the tale of the Dundalk High School boys' soccer team upsetting perennial power Patterson Park, 1-0, in 1972. Ali's father played goalie and stopped 27 shots that day. Dundalk scored the winning goal on a breakaway, and it was the only shot on goal they could muster the entire game. The family story fueled Ali's drive to excel on the field and sparked a love for the history of Baltimore soccer.
"It's the soccer story that I grew up on," Ali Andrzejewski, 32, said. "My father's passion for the game brushed off on me. The soccer culture in the city back then was similar to what you see in other countries. We had players on the world's stage, guys like Baltimore's Sonny Askew, who played with Pele, and [Franz] Beckenbauer."
In an effort to share that history and reconnect with those legendary players, Andrzejewski has launched BMore Soccer Connections, a podcast series available on iTunes featuring in-depth interviews with Baltimore soccer legends such as UMBC head coach Pete Caringi, local player Pete Eibner and professionals Charlie Myers and Askew.
One of the most celebrated soccer players in Maryland history, Andrzejewski led McDonogh to prominence and was a two-time collegiate All-American at the University of Maryland and Loyola University. She played for the U.S. Women's National team in 22 countries and professionally for the Washington Freedom. She was elected into the Maryland Soccer Hall of Fame in 2016.
She said she started the podcast because she thought something was missing in Baltimore youth soccer.
"Baltimore youth soccer has become so competitive within our own community," Andrzejewski said. "The rivalries are intense and the camaraderie is gone. There's too much emphasis on winning. We just need to let the kids play. Those guys back in the ‘70s played hard, but they were ‘buds' after the game was over. They would do anything for each other."
Andrzejewski's podcasts cover what she refers to as the "golden age" of Baltimore soccer, when the Sunday games at Patterson Park were played for neighborhood bragging rights. Players such as Caringi and others would end up at Calvert Hall, Archbishop Curley and Patterson Park. University of Baltimore and Loyola College won Division II national championships in 1975 and 1976, respectively.
"Division II back then wasn't like what it is today," Meyers said on his BMore Soccer Connections podcast. "Loyola could have beaten Maryland back then."
Andrzejewski established Champions Soccer Training 11 years ago with a focus on the soccer player as an individual first. She started playing soccer in the Lutherville-Timonium recreation council and moved on to Bethesda Soccer Club. In addition to training players in Baltimore, she has organized many trips to Nicaragua and Belize to bring soccer equipment and train players there.
"We teach life skills and having a positive attitude," she said. "We value our players as people. I want to know what else they like to do besides soccer. We encourage them to do well in school. We want them to see the possibilities."
A new season of BMore Soccer Connections will begin in the fall.
"I just turn on the mic and let them tell their stories," Andrzejewski said. "They last more than an hour. Sometimes, they get choked up talking about coaches and games. I'm not trying to become a journalist. We all love this game and there is so much more to do for it."
Issue 235: July 2017