Christine Richardson, English transplant who helped start youth soccer league

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    by Bob GoldsboroughChicago Tribune

    After moving to the Chicago area from England, Christine Mary Richardson and her husband co-founded the Palatine-based Northern Illinois Soccer League in 1975. Now with more than 1,000 teams, it is one of the largest youth soccer leagues in the state.

    From the beginning, Christine Richardson, who didn’t actually play soccer herself, served as the league’s vice president and executive administrator.

    “She was basically the maitre d’ of the league, and people came to her when they didn’t want to come to me,” said her husband, Peter. “She had a feeling for people.”

    Richardson, 74, died of complications from liver cancer May 21 at her home, her husband said. She had been an Elgin resident since 2000 and had lived in Hanover Park before that.

    Born Christine Bennett in the small village of Astwood Bank, England, Richardson was in high school when she met her future husband, and they married in 1964. In 1974, a job transfer for Richardson’s husband brought the couple to Hanover Park.

    Peter Richardson had grown up playing soccer, but when the couple came to the U.S., youth soccer programs were far from widespread. Seeking an avenue for their three young sons to play the sport, Richardson and her husband in 1975 formed the Northern Illinois Soccer League, a competitive youth soccer league for boys and girls ages 8 and up.

    “The idea was that when we came from England, we know the game itself can have a big influence on people’s lives, and as a result of that, we said that no matter how good or bad you are, this will be a place for you to play, and that was the philosophy that we developed all those years ago,” Peter Richardson said.

    The league began with just four teams, but quickly expanded as soccer’s popularity grew in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Today, the league, which Peter Richardson continues to oversee, has more than 1,000 teams and is one of the largest youth soccer leagues in the state.

    “Christine was an incredibly kind, thoughtful and hardworking administrator (whose) sense of humor, social skills and willingness to resolve issues endeared her to the soccer community,” said Mary Jane Bender, executive director of the nonprofit Illinois Youth Soccer Association.

    The couple opened indoor soccer facilities in Palatine and Highland Park in 1986, and later added a third location in Loves Park, near Rockford.

    With all three of their sons playing soccer, and both Richardson and her husband deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of their businesses, soccer truly was a family affair for Richardson.

    “When you live in a house full of males who love soccer — and I mean love soccer – you realize that you either go work there with them or you don’t see them at all,” Richardson told the Tribune in 1991. “It has turned out to be nice, because it’s very family-oriented here. I always know where I can find them.”

    Outside of the family’s soccer enterprises, Richardson enjoyed working in her English garden, cooking large meals and following news about the British royal family.

    Richardson also is survived by three sons, David, Michael and Philip; 11 grandchildren; and a brother, Colin Bennett.

    Services were held.

    Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.

    Chicago Tribune

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