In a city that boasts one of the largest populations of people of Italian heritage outside of Italy, the welcoming and introduction of TFCs newest designated player, Sebastian Giovinco, signals not just a massive coup for the league and TFC, but it’s massive for the Italian population of Toronto.
This season will mark TFCs 9th year playing in the heart of the big city, but yet in all this time, not one Italian player has ever suited up for the Reds. Whether or not that statistic is has anything to do with why Italians in the city and surrounding areas have not embraced the team in the way other demographics have, remains to be seen. It’s safe to say that fact is about to change in a big way.
Giovinco, whose nickname is La Formica Atomica (The Atomic Ant), arrived in Toronto for the very first time last week, and the crowds that greeted him were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. TFC supporters with flags and drums side by side with some 400 others on-lookers wearing Juventus and Italy apparel, filled Terminal 1 Arrivals gate at Pearson International Airport to welcome the diminutive attacking midfielder. To put this into perspective, there was only a hand full of fans to greet Jermain Defoe when he first arrived around the same time last year. If this is any indication of how the Italian community is willing to open their arms to Giovinco and in turn TFC, the team now has the attention of a substantial portion of a large demographic within the Greater Toronto Area.
But I want to qualify this because it was not a completely spontaneous outpouring of support – all Toronto FC social media accounts broadcasted to its followers the date, time and location of the arrival flight carrying Seba.
But regardless of the social media advertisements, the flight was set to arrive in the early afternoon portion of a midweek work day. I don’t know about most of you, but I know I can’t escape work that easily without a real valid excuse…and according to most bosses, soccer isn’t a valid excuse. But what do they know, am I right?
It took a couple of trips, a couple of dinners, and Tim Bez meeting La Famiglia to convince Giovinco to join MLS and TFC. The Brinks truck full of cash didn’t hurt TFCs chances either.
I refuse to even open up the salary debate (Giovinco will be the highest paid player in MLS history) because in order to get a player of his pedigree and at his age to come across the pond, all while fighting off other potential suitors…you HAVE to overpay at this stage. It is what it is.
He is a fast and creative attacking midfielder who has a history of hitting the back of the net – sounds like the type of player TFC has always needed.
Critics will cite his height as a problem in a league that takes pride in its toughness and athleticism. Seba stands at roughly 5’5”; pretty short by comparison with the rest of the league. But if my memory serves me right, people had a similar fear when a young Ecuadorian striker by the name of Joao Plata suited up for the Reds. If you’ve been around the TFC scene for a while, it’s definitely a sore spot because of how massive a mistake it was to deal him away…and get nothing in return! The guy can’t stop scoring.
As discussed before, there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ DP. What has become glaringly obvious with Giovinco is that, as best as one can tell before seeing him on the pitch with his teammates, he is the right kind of DP. The argument can be made that money will make anyone say the right things, as was clearly the case with Jermain Defoe. But it’s the sincerity in Giovinco’s words and his openness to a new adventure in MLS that’s most striking. He genuinely wants to be in Toronto and MLS. The reason for Defoe wanting to leave most, is the reason for Giovinco wanting to be here…if that makes sense.
As training continues in Toronto, this will mark the first time in years that all players have been together during training camp. Chemistry will be built and new relationships will be formed. Leaders will emerge, and it’s leaders that this franchise has always lacked.
These are exciting times once again in Toronto! Hopefully this time around when the season ends, it will also be the end of the most notorious streak in MLS. They have to do it. They have no choice.
(image courtesy of stopandgoal.net)