The Chicago Fire Juniors started in 2004 as the official youth club of the Chicago Fire. There are currently eight branches: Fire Juniors (Naperville), Fire Juniors South, Fire Juniors Northwest Indiana, Fire Juniors North, Fire Juniors Louisiana, Fire Juniors Florida, Mississippi Fire Juniors, and West Michigan Fire Juniors. The players on these teams are playing primarily with the goal of making it on the Chicago Fire Academy U-15/16 and U-17/18 teams. Earlier this week, Fire Juniors North had one of their players cruelly taken from them. The entire Fire organization grieves the loss of Kabiru Adewunmi.
Kabiru Adewunmi was born in Nigeria and was living here in Chicago. Adewunmi had won a spot on the Chicago Fire Juniors North team less than a year ago. He had recently turned 16 years old and was a sophomore at Amundsen High School in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. The Chicago Tribune reported that Adewunmi was on the other side of town at the 800 block of East 82nd Street in the Chatham neighborhood celebrating the Chicago Bulls playoff victory on Tuesday night. That moment of happiness was struck down when a gunman fired fatal shots on Adewunmi.
Sole Antonijevic is the coach of the Fire Juniors North team Adewunmi was playing on. Antonijevic praised the Nigerian youngster. To see the potential Adewunmi had in the world, we only need to look at Antonijevic's own son, Stefan. The senior Antonijevic was born in the former Yugoslavia and came to America where he played soccer for ten years in the MISL, USISL, or NPSL. He retired as a player while a member of the Chicago Power. Anthonijevic raised his son Stefan on the beautiful game. Three years ago, Stefan suited up for Antonjevic's homeland of Serbia. Seeing the pictures of his kid play for the Serbia U-19 National Team Anthonjevic said:
Oh my God! I didn't do it. I didn't play for the national team. He did better than me already... How cool! My brother was over there watching the game, and my parents. To see their grandson, who was born in Phoenix, go back and play in Serbia. It's just (a fairy tale). For me personally, it will be something I'll be proud of for the rest of my life.
Soccer brings out such strong and sometimes odd emotions. Often happiness, often frustration and occassionally there is pure joy. This morning the connection of soccer brings out sadness and anger across the Chicago Fire community as we mourn the loss of Kabiru Adewunmi. There was nothing stopping him from bringing future joy to us as Fire fans and members of the great Chicago community. The next time you wear the badge, think of Adewunmi. Bring some joy into the world because tragically Adewunmi won't be able to.