Pioneer Press’ Resident Futbol Fan

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As I often do, I was listening to NPR (91.5 here in Chicago) on Tuesday afternoon. It was the Worldview, hosted by Jerome McDonnell, and the segment was promoting the program’s World Cup coverage.

What struck me was McDonnell talked about the station’s team of bloggers, including Dan Shalin. Hold up. I know a Dan Shalin. So I called my Dan Shalin. He was busy at the time, but he called me back. Yes, Dan’s the Man, or at least one of them, for soccer news on WBEZ.

For those who don’t know, Dan works with me at Pioneer Press. The son of a sports writer, Dan covers Notre Dame, St. Patrick, Niles North and Niles West. I knew he liked soccer, but I didn’t realize his passion stretched so far as to writing about it for free for a public radio station. That’s love.

Dan got this gig after writing an essay before the 2006 World Cup. Hundreds of words about why soccer is special to him. Now, he’s one of WBEZ’s bloggers covering the beautiful game, and he will be co-hosting a show June 25 during the Worldview segment (noon-1 pm) with friend and fellow soccer lover Euan Hague, a Scottish geography professor at DePaul.

“I was such a big fan I told them I was going to eat my meals during the 2006 World Cup according to who was playing,” Dan said. “I was going to eat those ethnic cuisines and talk about soccer. I am glad I am not doing that again.”

Dan’s graduated from searching for authentic international meals (which potentially appeals to me until I have to eat a grilled grub worm. I watch too much Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel) to becoming a local authority on the sport.

“I played, but not well,” Dan said of his soccer background. He graduated from Naperville Central in 1993 and went to college at Michigan State. “I was not good. I went to Sting games as a youngster. It was the 1994 World Cup that turned me on. I decided to check it out. Little by little, I learned more about it.

“I then studied in England for a summer in college. It kind of picked up over there. With all the TV coverage and the Internet now, I came upon it at the right time.”

In 2002, after getting married, Dan and his wife honeymooned in Italy. While there, they watched the home country play in Naples during the European Championships.

“My wife almost got trampled,” he said, thankful it wasn’t worse.

Dan watched this year’s opener, featuring host South Africa and Chicago favorite Mexico, at Daley Plaza, near the South African consulate. The game was the same day as the Blackhawks’ parade and the Cubs-White Sox opener at Wrigley Field. Dan then watched the Yanks tie England 1-all at the Hop Haus, a newer establishment in northwest Rogers Park, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago.

For his show next week, Dan and Euan will talk to Chicago Fire GM Frank Klopas, probably about football. It’s anybody’s guess about which one.

Tune in.

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