Keith Poniewaz: Why I'm Flock End
The great Scottish player and coach Jock Stein once said, “Football is nothing without fans.” Presenting #WhyImFlockEnd: a weekly series highlighting members of Forward Madison FC’s Independent Supporters Association, affectionately termed The Flock.
Strangely, for an American, I kind of grew up in a soccer family.
My Uncle Roger was an American football player who fell in love with the game after he took a trip to Europe and came back and started playing in Milwaukee. He ended up being the head coach at Pius XI High School outside of Milwaukee and won a number of state titles over a number of years, another uncle was a goalkeeper in High School and yet another uncle played at Marquette University. I played from about age 3 on (I was known as the “mean green scoring machine” as a 4 year-old) and was a total soccer nerd that whole time. We’d watch “Soccer Made in Germany” at Grandma’s, I recorded every televised match I could (including sending directions to my grandmother to record those on Italian and Spanish TV networks that they had on Milwaukee but not Madison cable), I played at Middleton High School as a goalkeeper, I walked on (and then promptly retired due to back and bar issues) at the University of Chicago, and I have played and coached ever since.
I’ve seen the number of friendships that soccer has opened in my life (in fact, a friend visiting from Scotland is coming to the opener with me) and I’ve tried really hard to share that with others-- which is something The Flock is very committed to as well. I’m very involved with Millennium Soccer Club, which is basically an all-volunteer club for kids on the South and Southwest side of Madison who might not have access to traditional soccer programs; our slogan is “building community through soccer.” And that is something I experienced first-hand: I spent most of my 20s living outside of the United States and being an American who loved soccer was a really easy way to meet people, so I’ve seen first-hand how it brings cultures and people together. It allowed me to build my own little community wherever I moved. I’m really excited that the Flock has been dedicated to that as well.
What makes you excited to be a part of The Flock this year?
I think that they’ve been doing everything right. They want The Flock to be a part of Madison and help make soccer inclusive. It’s about more than just game day, though game day is going to be pretty awesome.
Who's your all-time favorite footballer and why?
Zinedine Zidane. He was so efficient. Just maximized every bit of space and time on the pitch.
What are you looking forward to most about Forward Madison's inaugural season?
When I grew up, Breese was the location for the State High School soccer tournament; you’d get a full house for matches. Walking out on the pitch was absolutely electric; with the stands keep noise in, it becomes an intense environment for soccer. I’m looking forward to bringing that electricity back.
What aspect of soccer supporter culture would you like to see in the Flock End?
I’m looking forward to our creating our own culture.
I’m Flock End
because I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d have a pro team in Madison-- I mean we’re playing Hertha Berlin! If you see me at a game ask me to tell you stories about the dark ages before Fox Soccer…
Favorite place to hang out with friends in Madison?
Best vacation you've ever had?
I’ve been to something like 15 countries, but my family used to spend summers up on Big St. Germain near Minocqua. Hard to beat a week up-north as a kid.
What song or album is on your heavy rotation right now?
What's your favorite or most memorable soccer match that you've been to?
There are too many:
Pro-level: 1994 World Cup - Germany 3 - 2 Belgium - at Soldier Field… You can walk to Soldier Field from downtown so the atmosphere was constant. Germans and Belgians singing the whole way… Were most of the Flock end alive then?
Amateur level: 1992 Wisconsin. Private School Championship between Pius and Marquette. Stadium was totally sold out, had to watch from outside the grounds… Absolute electric atmosphere.
Which of the Forward Madison players announced so far are you most excited to see play?
I’m a recovering goalkeeper: Brian Sylvestre and Ryan Coulter