Sad news on the St. Louis sports scene today as former Steamers/Storm and Ambush goalie Slobo Ilijevski died today from an injury suffered in a soccer game over the weekend. He was only 58 years old.
It is not too much to overstate things when I say that Slobo is one of the five most influential soccer players to have ever been in the area. On top of being a great goalkeeper he ran a tremendous amount of youth camps in the area teaching the game of soccer to countless youths in the area. In other words he spread the game of soccer in this area not only through his play but through his actions.
If you weren't in St. Louis in the early 80's or weren't growing up in the area during that time you won't possibly understand how big St. Louis Steamers soccer was in this city. They easily outdrew the Blues at that time and they were the toughest ticket in town during the winter in those days. They routinely sold out the old Checkerdome and their players were stars in this town. Growing up in Florissant as I did they were Gods to me and a lot of my friends. I can still tell you about Slobo, Tony Glavin, Carl Rose, Don Ebert, Daryl Doran and the whole cast. A large number of games were televised on KPLR at that point and were covered just as much as any professional sports franchise in this town is now. I know that seems impossible to believe in the year 2008 that indoor soccer was drawing 17,000 a night at one time but it was a big deal back then.
Slobo was the one of the linchpins of the Steamers greatness at that time and he will be missed. In my few times ever meeting him as a child and then as an adult he was a very nice man. He will be missed and remembered by a lot of soccer fans that grew up and became soccer fans because of him.