Soccer Star Bastian Schweinsteiger Embracing New Chapter In Chicago

By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Tucked away from the frenzy as Kris Bryant accepted his MVP honors Tuesday night, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Ana Ivanovic leaned against the famed Wrigley Field bricks and looked on.

Chicago has welcomed two new stars to its sports scene. Schweinsteiger is a German soccer great, a World Cup champion and legend in his home country. His wife Ivanovic, now retired, was the No. 1 tennis player in the world for a time.

Now, Schweinsteiger is playing for the Chicago Fire and their young core. He’s the soccer hero among upstarts, brought to excite the franchise’s eager fan base. Schweinsteiger arrived in Chicago ready to embrace a great change. After living life like a folk hero, he’s now trying to ignite the local soccer scene.

“It’s cool to meet all the people,” Schweinsteiger said. “Every day, you learn about people. You try to improve our game style, we try to play soccer in a good way where people come to our game more.”

So Schweinsteiger and Ivanovic traveled over the Atlantic and landed in Chicago two months ago to great fanfare at O’Hare Airport. It was a wild scene, with hundreds awaiting his arrival. But playing soccer in America is vastly different from Germany.

Schweinsteiger can blend in and live a normal life. He has 4.09 million Twitter followers, and Ivanovic has 1.46 million, yet they don’t live under the spotlight in Chicago. A Bryant or Anthony Rizzo is far more likely to draw a scene at local restaurants. Because of this, Schweinsteiger and Ivanovic have been able to explore the city with peace.

Fabled Wrigley Field was the latest stop on their tour of Chicago. They joined the Fire’s Dax McCarty, Drew Conner and Juninho on the field before the Cubs-Phillies game Tuesday. Schweinsteiger took the honors of the ceremonial first pitch, throwing a baseball for the first time. He stepped up to the mound and threw a strike.

Beforehand, Schweinsteiger looked around the historic ballpark. He glanced around at the finer details, thinking back to the historic soccer stadiums like Old Trafford.

“I was excited, because we’ve never been here,” Schweinsteiger said. “I never had a chance to watch a baseball match in my life, so it’s my first time. I also like that the stadium is so old and has tradition. That’s why we enjoy it.”

When Schweinsteiger was introduced in Chicago in late March, a reporter asked him if the Fire could win the World Cup. After playing previously with Bayern Munich and Manchester United, suiting up in Chicago will be different, but Schweinsteiger has embraced it.

During those times away from the pitch, Schweinsteiger has found serenity along Lake Michigan, his favorite place in Chicago. He and Ivanovic have been just about everywhere throughout Chicago, growing comfortable in their new home.

While the Cubs’ stars continue to thrill the city with their successes, the Fire have a star of their own eager to ignite Chicago everywhere he can go. Schweinsteiger is embracing every bit of this new chapter.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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