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  • A history worth celebrating



    Eusébio, the great Portuguese international, is ill. Although reports of the seriousness of the problem vary – some are suggesting that his hospitalization is merely precautionary, while others are preparing for the worst – it is a reminder that even the great ones have a limited time on this earth.

    It’s also a reminder that we in Toronto are often too quick to forget our past, especially when it comes to the rich and, yes, at times successful soccer history in this city.

    Eusébio is part of that history. The Black Panther only played one season here, but he’s remained connected to the city ever since. He’s traveled back to Toronto whenever asked, recently returning to promote the South Africa World Cup and, quietly, taking part in a 35th anniversary celebration of the Toronto Metros-Croatia Soccer Bowl championship.

    He was undoubtedly past his prime when he led Toronto to that oft-forgotten title, the last this city has seen in the sport. However, a strong argument can be made that he remains the greatest footballer to ever play for a Toronto team.

    It’s interesting to compare how Toronto and Vancouver treat their NASL past. The Whitecaps have “est 1974” stitched onto the back of their strips, whereas TFC seemed to go out of their way to distance itself from all previous Toronto teams.


    You can sort of understand why they might not want to be associated with the Lynx – the on-field failure (eight of 10 seasons without playoffs, including the last six it spent at D2) was only matched by inept business operations. The Lynx were a minor league operation in all ways.

    The NASL history, however, should not be ignored. Toronto was a part of the league from 1971 to it folded in 1984 – and, technically, the Blizzard never did go under. It was just hard to continue without a league to play in. They were successful on the pitch, winning one title. Although attendance was inconsistent from year to year it would be wrong to suggest that the team didn’t have a following.

    It’s a great piece of trivia that the final NASL game was played in Toronto at the sadly departed Varsity Stadium. The Toronto fans defiantly invaded the pitch at the final whistle, many likely aware that it would be a long time before top flight soccer would return to the city. I know for a fact that some of the folks that rushed from the stands that day were also there in 2007 when TFC launched. I know because I stand with some of them today.

    In short, the NASL was, in no way, a failure in Toronto.

    Isn’t it about time that we embrace and celebrate that past a bit more?


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