In stadiums across Major League Soccer (MLS) fans are mourning the loss of a fellow supporter, Eric Shertz. Shertz, an original member of the Philadelphia Union’s Sons of Ben fan group, passed away in his sleep on Sunday morning at 38-years old.
Shertz loved soccer. He was a major fixture in the soccer community around Philadelphia. Shertz co-founded a amatuer soccer club named Bearfight FC in Willmington, Delaware and established himself as the Union’s top fan from day one of the club. Shertz put down his first deposit for season tickets as soon as he could after the MLS anounced that Philadelphia was being awarded a club in 2008. It took the Union two years before they played their first game. That first match was a road game in Seattle against the Sounders FC in 2010. Shertz traveled from Philly to Seattle for the match.
The Sons of Ben, Union’s original and largest group of fans, spung to action upon hearing of Shertz’s death. Kenny Hanson, the current presedent of the group and a friend to Shertz was shocked at the news, but immediately started a fundraising campaign with Bearfight FC to assist with Shertz’ family. Hanson regarded Shertz as a model father. Shertz’ sixteen year olf son, Gabe, was typically found right by his side during Union games cheering on the team with the same enthusiasm as his father.
While the Union are mourning the the loss Shertz, MLS clubs and fans from around the country are reaching out to offer what they can for their fellow club supporter. Fan groups from MLS teams around the league are contacting the Sons of Ben to offer whatever help they can. In just the few days since word that Shertz had passed, the group has been contacted by their couterparts in Seattle, New York and Florida. Coaches, executives and players for the Union have also offered support to the Sons of Ben and Shertz family.
Hanson was even contacted by the Union’s rival team, D.C. United. United will be Philadelphia’s next home game. The rival team wanted to see what they could do along with the Sons of Ben to honor Shertz. Hanson is not totally surprised by the overwhelming support coming in. According to Hanson, Shertz was just one of those special people, friends with everyone, loved by all.
It was typical that when a new member joined the Sons of Ben, Shertz was the first one to welcome them. He always had a smile on his face. If fans were distressed over the play of the team, Shertz was there to cheer them up, calm them down, or just be a friend. The excitement that Shertz showed the Union was infectious, but it did not stop there. Shertz was a supporter of the MLS and had a desire to see the young league continue to grow.
While all of the MLS are mourning the loss of a fellow suporter, fans all over the league will continue with the same enthusiasm that Shertz showed every day. The game between the Union and D.C. United on May 10 will be the first game at home without Shertz. It will be a sad moment in the history of the Union, and at the same time be a great celebration of the life and support of the teams’ biggest fan.
Commentary by Carl Auer