Toronto FC: They don’t pay for healthcare and nor do I
June 4, 2008 6 Comments
I’ve gone through a very strange transformation in the last few days. Suddenly, out of nowhere I’ve become somewhat of a fan of Toronto FC.
Now I’ve never shown any inclinations to the MLS before. I’ve always been quite anti-America as far as soccer… football is concerned. The reason being that I’ve always feared the potential ramifications of North America suddenly waking up the game.
While I like basketball and imagine I would enjoy playing baseball – I don’t follow US sports to any major extent. I like the San Antonio Spurs in basketball but that was mainly due to the name being associated with my English football team. That and I liked Tim Duncan and, in more the recent times, the awesome Manu Ginobili. American Football on the other hand was simply a write-off.
But yet I’ve nailed my colours to the Toronto FC mast and I know where the blame lies.
The MLS had struggled to penetrate the UK in any way until recently. If you ask most people in the country about the league then the characteristic that most would pick out the unfathomable concept to people in this country that the games are decided by penalties as the public won’t tolerate draws. Even though this is no longer the case it seems to be the only fact we know about the game stateside.
It’s not as if we are just ignorant on this side of the pond. We have one of the best leagues in the world and that receives almost blanket coverage on the sports pages. In Europe there are strong leagues like Serie A, La Liga and the Bundesliga and yet they are barely mentioned. If we don’t have time for leagues
that are packed with quality internationals then there are few people dedicated enough to watch MLS highlights at 4am on a channel not everyone can receive.
However one signing made everyone sit up and take notice. The purchase of a certain impossibly-handsome Londoner in his early-thirties had fans and media buzzing with excitement. Could he put the game on the map where others have tried and failed.
Well, I’ll hold my hands up and plead guilty. I have fallen hook, line and sinker for the media hype. The transfer of Danny Dichio to Toronto FC has had the required impact and I have been hooked in. He was recently interviewed on the BBC’s late-night world football phone in and made me aware of his move and that Toronto FC even existed. I found the story about their special chant for him that is always sung on the 24th minute, on account of that being when he scored the team’s first-ever goal, to be humourous but must admit I didn’t think much more of it.
Fast forward to last week and the hype surrounding Jozy Altidore in the build to the England vs. USA friendly intrigued me and on asking an American who he plays for, was told Toronto. They turned out to be wrong but a Wikipedia search of the team revealed some more familiar names in their squad list. Ex-Tottenham and Arsenal youth player Rohan Ricketts wears the number ten shirt and the-ever controversial Laurent Robert was also listed and I recognised Jim Brennan (captain) and Carl Robinson (vice-captain) from the English lower leagues. Ex-Celtic and Birmingham centre back Olivier Tebily is also enjoying the benefits on sunny Canada.
One such benefit being that they, of course, don’t pay for health care. Why would anyone? I don’t get it.
I was now more than curious and co-incidentally found an article about the team on one of my favourite football sites on the very same day. Typically for Pitch Invasion, it was extremely well-written and as I was so unaware of everything MLS-related, all the points brought up by the author were new and interesting.
I like to have a team to support in any country where I pay attention to what’s going on and the piece pointed out that the team had their inaugural season in 2007. Not only are they my commonwealth cousins but they were almost as new to the league as I am. Now I don’t particularly believe in fate but surely the Gods were aligning on this one. All these factors coming together at once AND they have Dichio-o-o-o-o-o leading the line? I was surely being pushed towards Toronto FC.
I probed further into youtube and found numerous clips all of which charmed me further. The accessibility of the league itself is a major positive and the goals from every game are all readily available online. So, as I have no excuse not to, I’ve decided to follow the fortunes of Toronto FC over the rest of the season. Who knows if this will be temporary infatuation or a long-term love but for the time being at least I am charmed by the side that have taken Danny Dichio to their hearts so.
Not every import to American does as well as him though. A less-glamouous Londoner plying his trade out there is not having nearly as much fun.