It’s a treat to be in soccer-mad Toronto

July 29th, 2010

By: Markus Stadelmann-Edler,  Toronto

On Saturday, John Doyle, Globe and Mail television critic and author of The World Is a Ball: The Joy, Madness and Meaning of Soccer, wrote that Toronto is probably the best place to experience the World Cup if you cannot be in the host country.

I couldn’t agree more. And it is easy to see why.

One of the obvious reasons is that Toronto is a city of immigrants. For many, it’s soccer that helps them integrate. New immigrants search out soccer fields to meet people. It’s a place where your struggle to find employment can be left outside the pitch and your heavily accented English doesn’t matter. It’s a place for new friendships and networking. At least, that’s how it was for me over 20 years ago.

Soccer is an easy game to play. You only need one ball, a couple of shirts for goal posts and a few players willing to run up and down a field. Watch some people playing a game of pick-up soccer and you’re sure to be invited to join in. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, what language you speak or what job you have. All you need is love for the beautiful game.

In Toronto, if your country hasn’t qualified, you just adopt another (or you are adopted by another – just visit its headquarter, be it Chez La Belle Africaine for Cameroon, the Prague Deli for Slovakia or Teranga for Ivory Coast). And if your team has failed to make it to the next round, you just have to adopt another then and keep cheering. Soccer fans, while passionate, seem to be friendlier and not necessarily adversarial. So, Germans get together with the Dutch at the Madison to marvel at Klose’s extraordinary header (you would never see that in Europe), the Swiss Consulate invites representatives from Chile to join the Swiss fans at the Foxes Den when they play each other and turn the game into a fundraiser for the earthquake victims, and everyone dances with the Brazilians long after the final whistle has blown (okay, I guess, that happens pretty much around the world).

When this year’s World Cup started on June 11, my colleagues at work, like so many in offices around Toronto, organized our own party for the opening ceremony. As we were sitting in the boardroom, I was once again struck by our city’s diversity, which is very much mirrored in our staff. We started to count the languages that we spoke – and lost track after 25. No wonder that every four years, this city turns into one big celebration.

But enough of that – now the real fun starts. MY team plays its first game. I’m ready to face the Spanish team (and hopefully my team is ready, as well). Unfortunately, the injury bug has hit the Swiss. Alex Frei won’t play and neither will Valon Behrami. Then again, so many other teams have to deal with the same. Just look at Germany without Michael Ballack. No predictions, but I’m looking forward to a wonderful game. I’m sure the Spaniards are more than happy to comply.

Hopp Schwiiz.

Source: CBC.ca, 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer SuperFans Blog, June 16, 2010

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