Welcome to soccer town - Macleans.ca

Welcome to soccer town

Where is the best place on the planet to watch the World Cup—even better than South Africa?


Sam Javanrouh / www.topleftpixel.com

Quick: Where’s the best city to see the World Cup? No, it’s not London, where the game originated. Nor is it Rio de Janiero or São Paolo, where the game was perfected. You don’t, of course, want to go to the World Cup itself, in Johannesburg, unless you enjoy wading across rivers of lager, imported prostitutes and crowds full of British hooligans and Australians. Still don’t have it? The answer is much closer than you may think, and obvious to everyone who lives there. Toronto is the greatest place in the world to be during the World Cup—the most fun, the most exciting, the happiest.

The reason is simple. No matter who wins, Toronto gets to hold the party. Since the 1982 final, when Italy beat Germany 3-1, the city has turned into carnival every fourth summer. The party doesn’t have to wait until the finals, eWorld Cup 2010 Specialither. When a smaller country, with less likelihood of winning the Cup itself, manages to triumph during one of the opening rounds, they drive around in cars honking and screaming all night until every last Torontonian—through sheer lack of sleep—is aware of the victory. If Mexico beats France, or if Greece beats Argentina, nobody in the city of Toronto will have to check the sports pages the next morning to find out who won. In 2002, when South Korea and Turkey both made the semi-finals, they closed down Little Korea in the Bloor and Bathurst neighbourhood in order to hold a spontaneous parade. It worked out beautifully; both nations’ colours were white and red. This is Toronto at its best: Turks and Koreans together drunkenly celebrating their shared bragging rights, throwing cabbages around (it’s a Korean thing), and generally living their brief flash of glory to the max.

Toronto during the World Cup owes its splendour to certain unique conditions that are replicated nowhere else, not even in Montreal or in Vancouver. For the purposes of soccer, Toronto immigrants come from the right places and in the right numbers. There are thousands upon thousands of people from Italy and Portugal who have formed virtually semi-autonomous communities within the city, who speak little or no English, and whose free time is consumed with soccer. The sheer number of countries represented by Toronto immigrants also helps the party. You just don’t realize until the World Cup how many people from Côte d’Ivoire live here, or Slovenia, or Honduras. And these groups live together in relative harmony, which means that nobody intensely hates anybody else’s triumphs.

Unlike in other global cities, like London, we don’t have the tension and anxiety of dealing with our own nation in the tournament. I, for one, am entirely happy with Canada never having scored a goal in World Cup competition. As it stands now, nobody has to wait until Canada is kicked out to start the party. Nor do we have to deal with the permanent depression that haunts the second-tier powers of the international football world, always within reach but never able to grasp the ultimate prize. Have you ever met an English football fan after yet another World Cup disaster? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I would much rather celebrate with whomever happens to be winning at the moment. It’s so much healthier.
But failure is the other major reason why Toronto is such a delicious location to watch the World Cup. Unlike Montreal and
Vancouver, Toronto doesn’t have a real hockey team, which is why we need soccer. Over the past three decades, Toronto has become the definitive North American city for losing at sports. The powers that be have decided that the sports fans of the city are such hot suckers that they don’t need even the occasional glint of victory, and so all of our teams are cheaply bought, poorly organized losers, non-competitors, the bottom .500. New York, Montreal and Vancouver can afford to be relatively blasé about the World Cup because they have horses in other races: the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup. Torontonians are gagging for a victory party, and we’ll happily join in at somebody else’s as fully as if it were our own.

This year the partying will start early. Italy has the easiest group in the tournament—its opponents are Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia—so it will almost certainly advance into the final 16. That’s got to be worth shutting down College Street for. Portugal is in the group of death—Côte d’Ivoire, North Korea and Brazil. Every victory in that round will be a genuine triumph, more than enough of an excuse to block all traffic on the corner of Ossington and Dundas.

Mexico faces South Africa in the first match. My ears are already ringing from the honking. It’s going to keep me up all night. I can’t wait.

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Welcome to soccer town

  1. So right! I was on St. Clair after the big Italian win and the march of people was like a scene out of a movie. So much fun.

  2. This might be the stupidest article I have ever read. Actually I stopped reading after:

    "Toronto is the greatest place in the world to be during the World Cup—the most fun, the most exciting, the happiest."

    This is so laughable, so ridiculous. And then you all wonder why the rest of Canada believes Torontonians think the world revolves around their beloved city.

    • On what do you base your criticism? I've been in Toronto for a few World Cup celebrations (never purposefullly, I just happened to be there) and the article rings true to me.

      Maybe you shoud read the whole thing and think about it a bit.

      • If you've ever had the chance to experience a soccer game in a stadium in Europe, although i'm sure the experience is just as electric in South America or Africa or even Asia, whether its a UEFA match or La Liga or even a less known local game, you'd understand.

        Nothing beats being there in the stadium, people chanting throughout the entire match, the energy is unlike anything. Ya sure if your team is defeated you're disappointed but it reminds of the end of a great quote by Roosevelt:

        “…who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never tasted victory or defeat.”

        It seems as though this pick for the greatest place on earth to watch the world cup would fit in with the description of a place that has neither tasted victory or defeat. boring.

    • Totally agree with you.

      (A) Toronto is never the best place for anything
      (B) Soccer (and all similar spectator sport events) is not for sophisticated and refined minds.

      • Sophisticated and refined minds like yours, I presume?

        • well he does advertise as "Canada's Top Web Columnist on Politics, Business, Society, the Media, etc." CR!

          • I sense your sarcasm, but he backs up his boast.

            One of the best blogs in the Calgary area. (Editor-in-chief of a major newspaper)
            He should work for the United Nations. (Professor of political science)
            Werner Patels for mayor. He hit the nail on the head. (Reader of National Post in response to one of Werner Patels' columns)
            A wonderful writer, and a very gracious man. (Freelance writer and columnist)

            You think it is easy to nail down all those anonymous endorsements!

          • i noted that in my brief tour around his site. impressive. even more so, in my humble opinion, is this para though:

            Somehow I doubt that active politics was in Ignatieff's blood. He is a thinker and writer, not a party leader or prime minister. Like me, he feels most comfortable when he gets to hatch ideas, develop them further and then write about them. The idea of having to uproot my life and move to 24 Sussex Drive is the kind of stuff I have nightmares about. Unfortunately for Ignatieff, he is living my nightmare, or something very close to it.

            also check out his commenting policy. wowsers.

          • Not sure if its related, but I couldn't find any comments posted…none met the criteria?

          • well Phil, as he leads by example, the gentleman sets a high standard. I mean he might be called upon to uproot his life and lead the nation after all!!! (sorry but after a day later I still can't imagine what inspires someone to write that about themselves with a sense of it actually having the potential to occur).

          • C'mon, admit it, you've thought about it, leading the country, or at least representing your riding, with the wisdom of _______ and the patience of ________.

        • Well, I might not have a sophisticated or refined mind like Mr Patels, but I sure enjoy a good game of futbol and there are 3 BILLION people in this world that feel the same way, can't wait !

    • i gotta agree. is it great that people from different ethnic groups all have a shared reason to be festive together, bringing the best (and worst) of their cultures. of course it is (but some of them will be a lot less festive quicker than others diminishing the effect). is there lots of good ethnic food to go around in TO? to be sure. will there still be some enclave partying on the night of the finals because there is no singular home team? yup. but…

      what TO has in its breadth of supporters, it also lacks in terms of intensity of engagement and enthusiasm. i happen to be in the netherlands and it is crazy here already. i went to the last friendly (warm-up) game on saturday. it was literally near 50,000 people decked out fully in oranje! they were louder before the game started than any north american sporting event i have ever been to (and i have been to a ton in multiple cities in all four major NA sports). every where you go there are orange banners, streamers, posters and folks where shirts. these guys remake their entire street in orange every two years (world cup and euro) http://www.rnw.nl/english/video/dutch-football-fe

      also because of the proximity of europe there are still enclaves of people cheering for other countries. and more, because they love soccer sooooooo much, they are still going to be engaged for the whole tournament. even the guys that decorate the whole street orange, leave it intact until after finals, no matter what happens. toronto is great and all, and maybe the best in canada. but best in the world? not a chance.

      Stephen, here else have you actually been for the world cup?

      • Haters wanna Hate.

        Get over it. Despite what hard wired response to an article about Toronto might be to any other Canadian, the city is actually pretty good at a lot of things and is a really fun place to be. So, get over the tired cliches and tell me why the city is really that terrible. Most people who hate the city, I'm sure, have never even stepped foot inside.

        • NIck, not sure why I got the good fortune of your reply, but you might note that i have not disparaged Toronto in suggesting I disagreed with the author. Toronto has a lot of great things going for it (I think I even named a few!). it was the last place i lived in Canada, and I suspect I will return to there next year. doesn't mean i think it is the best place on earth to watch soccer.

          (ps it does have some parts i am not so enthusiastic about though! a single bike lane anywhere useful in the downtown core would be a brilliant improvement! oh and the Maple Laughs, er I mean Leafs).

    • I disagree. What he says is true – almost every single world cup game is followed by a party in Toronto. And the people throwing the party parade themselves around the city so that everyone knows about it, whether it's a South American, African, Asian or Euro country.
      Now, I'm not so sure it's the best place to watch the world cup, because countries that are passionate about their teams might be better places, but it's definitely one of the better places to watch the world cup.

  3. He's totally right except for the 'virtually semi-autonomous community who speak little or no english' part of it. That's a bit much. But on the whole he's pretty accurate, as anybody who has lived in TO during a World Cup can attest.

  4. Ah hell, I forgot the World Cup was about to begin. Already had to live three rounds of playoff hockey in Montreal and now the World Cup, I'll never be able to get in any bar during that period. :(

  5. Canadian arrogance is laughable. Toronto is a dive. Accept it. The rest of the developed world do not care about you. Toronto a global city? What a joke. A city comprised of immigrants from developing countries more like. They don't come to your country because Canada is a great country, they come simply because you let them in. Don't you understand that? You pump your media full of flowery ideas of multiculturalism and harmony, and don't to see how the system is failing both those that are new to the country, good ol' Canadians from way back when, and the aboriginal population. Wake up!

    • O Fred, your post is the only thing I have read here that is laughable.

      • Having been to rougly 20 cities around the world on 3 continents, I can safely say never seen people live in such a self indulgent and isolationist bubble as in Toronto. It's a small city with an artificially boosted up population of 2.5m. Who on earth would want to live there? Oh, I forgot – South Asians and mainland Chinese. It's paradise for them isn't it? Enjoy your sad little life in Canada and keep denying the facts. Pseudo yanks…

        • jesus. you are a happy fellow.

        • What's wrong with South Asians and "mainland" Chinese?

          (fyi, there are no shortage of HK & Taiwanese Chinese here as well)

  6. Heh. Every once in a while it's fun to see an article that fills the Trano haters with bile. ;^) And College St. is a crazy fun party come World Cup time.

  7. I am sure Toronto must have fun and enjoy the Worl Cup! But having been in Mexico, Brasil, Spain, France and Italy during different World Cups is something else and I can assure you as much fun as Toronto might have, can't compare to Futbol countries!

    • exactly!!!

  8. "Over the past three decades, Toronto has become the definitive North American city for losing at sports."

    1993 was in the past three decades, wasn't it? 1992?

    Ye gods, Cleveland and Buffalo are within a day's drive of the city and I wouldn't trade Toronto's sports experiences for those two if you paid me a million bucks. How about Atlanta, which has one World Series against a history of failure? Geez, if Montreal's got a legitimate hockey team because of their run to the conference finals this year… doesn't that mean that the Leafs' two runs to the same stage in the past decade (four times since 1992-93) qualify them for something?

    Pretty freaking clueless.

    "New York, Montreal and Vancouver can afford to be relatively blasé about the World Cup because they have horses in other races: the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup. "

    New York, fine. What's Montreal won since the Jays last won the World Series? What has Vancouver EVER won? Unless you're counting the CFL (in which case, the Argos have done fine for themselves), Vancouver has a hockey team that can't get out of the second round and a basketball team that… oh, right.

  9. "Portugal is in the group of death—Côte d'Ivoire, North Korea and Brazil. Every victory in that round will be a genuine triumph, more than enough of an excuse to block all traffic on the corner of Ossington and Dundas."

    How is this the Group of Death??? There are clearly 2 favorite teams, Brazil and Portugal, and two teams that are there by affrimative action. Theres no competition for the playoffs here at all.

    The real action is where there are 2 teams competing for the 2nd playoff bearth such as is the case with Mexico and Urguay

    • Are you retarded?

  10. rubbish. you're right about us not having a national team to mourn, thus disconnecting us with the practicality. Claiming Toronto as a better place to watch the matches (or any claim for that matter) highlights why all the humans are leaving for Montreal.

  11. And after the World Cup, it will be another fun NFL Football season. Check it out. Fun times with Office Pools.

  12. Please don’t feed the (anti-toronto) trolls.

  13. Montréal is a nightmare for immigrants, that's why.
    KKKébec treats its immigrants like shit.
    And Toronto is a much better place to live.
    The city is cool, the people are nice (or at least polite), the atmosphere is more relaxed (I mean there's no such social/racial tension in the air).
    I will repeat it one more time: Montréal sucks big time.