Not For The First Time, Toronto Splits Nation

Today is CONCACAF Champions League final qualifying day, with Toronto FC taking on Puerto Rico Islanders for a spot in the group stages.

As we documented quite vociferously, Vancouver were cheated out of their place in this match up, and putting all bitterness from June aside, all at AFTN would just like to send out a big “C’mon the Islanders” shout. Let’s hope Puerto Rico do Vancouver proud.

There’s an interesting article on CBC’s website about why all of Canada should get behind Toronto for this qualifying campaign (read HERE).

The article is by Nigel Reed, the English commentator for CBC’s matches that has an accent so posh and toff sounding that when you first hear it you really think it’s someone taking the piss and putting on a very bad English accent. Reading his words are as difficult as listening to them. I really do have to listen to his game with the sound down.

His arguments for this show of solidarity are based on very flawed premises and beliefs and it is perhaps better if he takes off his red and white tinted glasses for more than a moment.

It has been argued that Canada’s team, whoever they may be, need a constant good showing in the CONCACAF Champions League to cement Canada’s standing in the organisation. But let’s be honest here, Canada are not likely to hold any sway in the region until the national team do it on the world stage on a regular basis. These Club competitions, with teams comprising of many non Canadian players, are going to do squat for this.

Reed argues that if TFC were to do well then it would increase pressure to have two Canadian clubs in the qualifying, instead of the one club that puts Canada on an even footing with Nicaragua and Belize. One big problem here that he seems to overlook. These other one club countries, along with the two Club nations like Panama, Guatemala and El Salvador, have a hell of a lot more professional club sides playing than Canada’s meagre three.

Until the game develops in Canada and there is a professional league full of Canadian Clubs, or at the very least, half a dozen or more sides competing in the Canadian Championship games, Canada has no right to look for more than one representative in the Champions League. It would be farcical if two thirds of the country’s sides progressed, no matter how well the representatives do each year.

The other argument tied into this is that if that isn’t possible, then at least an automatic group stage should be made available to the Canadian representative if they keep going far into the competition.

As a Vancouver fan, who will hopefully see his team qualify for future competitions, this would indeed be fantastic. Whether this would ever be likely in the foreseeable future is doubtful. That would require one of Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador to lose their place and that isn’t going to sit well.

I’d argue that it’s actually a good thing to have to go through a qualifying round to get into the big show. If your team isn’t good enough to get past this stage, do they even deserve to be in ther group stages? If you have a weak team, would you rather have six games in an already busy schedule and get humped or have the ability to know that your players weren’t quite good enough and concentrate on the business of the League instead.

Then there’s the whole Toronto thing. Yes, people do hate Toronto, everything it stands for and all it’s sports teams. I’m not one of them. I like Toronto as a city and have had many happy times there. It was the first place I’d ever travelled to abroad. I’m a Toronto Maple Leafs fan and have been since that first visit in 1994, through thin and thinner.

My wanting TFC to lose has nothing to do with hating the city. Yes, it does have a little to do with the way they’re in this qualifier and not Vancouver, but most of my anger at that is directed towards Montreal. They will not be forgetten by Caps fans, ever.

No, I want Toronto to lose solely for football fan rivalry reasons.

For Reed to expect fans of other Canadian clubs to rally behind TFC is laughable. If the article was written by a lazy Toronto-based Canadian journalist then you could maybe understand how he doesn’t understand the deep rooted hatred that exists between rival football teams and supporters across the world. Reed is English though. He should know better.

Would he expect Chelsea fans to rally behind Manchester United for the good of English football? Or Celtic behind Rangers or Barca behind Real Madrid? Hopefully he shouldn’t, as it just wouldn’t happen.

I have the excuse that I’m not Canadian and don’t have to cheer on “Canada’s Club”, but that aside, I’m a Vancouver Whitecaps fan first and foremost.

If there was any inkling in me that may have thought about cheering on TFC then that was soon extinguished with the way that some of their younger and more idiotic internet trolls reacted after they qualified.

You also have to ask that if the match is so important to Canadian Club football, then why is CBC not showing the game? They are the nation’s broadcaster after all and in every home in the country. How important can it be if it’s Gol TV that pick up the match? Kudos to them for doing so though, but it does limit the audience as they are a cable station that you have to pay extra for.

Getting behind TFC tonight isn’t for the good of Canadian football. Wanting them to lose and building up a proper set of football rivalries will do far more good for the game’s future in Canada as far as I’m concerned, otherwise what’s the point of having more than one team anyway?

*** just editing to add that Toronto lost the first leg 1-0 at home ***

Authored by: Michael McColl

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