Whether the skies are clear or the clouds are low, there seems to always be an impromptu gamof pick-up soccer somewhere on campus. Anywhere between ten to twenty participants are always gathered to take part in the world’s most popular sport.
“Soccer is very big and very popular on campus,” said University of Toronto electrical engineer undergraduate and soccer enthusiast Michael Politano. “Whether it’s a pick-up game, intramurals or college-sponsored tournaments, there’s always lots of soccer going on at U of T.”
The popularity of soccer at, and around, the University of Toronto is a reflection of the increasingly multicultural society on campus. Politano was quick to point out the university’s annual World Cup of Clubs Tournament—a decades old soccer tournament hosted by the University of Toronto Italian-Canadian Association every October—as one example.
The growing diversity of the campus’ student population is a reflection of the city’s booming and vibrant mosaic of cultures and heritages, and it is this appreciation and acceptance of multiculturalism that has allowed Toronto to slowly build a relationship with this internationally beloved sport.
“The soccer culture in Toronto seems to be on the rise,” observed York University student Jonathan Staseff. “I think a lot of this can be attributed to the success of the first Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise here in Toronto, the Toronto FC. The city has really taken a liking to the TFC and it has brought soccer into the mainstream here.”
The University of Toronto, and the city itself, become a different places during the FIFA World Cup. It is as if the world suddenly shifts more clearly into view and in the bars and on the streets people are rediscovering their native lands and colours in a cacophony of national pride. The World Cup serves as a means of unifying oneself with others in spirit and in a celebration that could last all night. Toronto, to a greater extent than any other city in the world, transforms into a multinational party point during the World Cup.
Festivities just kicked off last Friday, and already in the downtown core there is somewhere to watch and embrace the excitement regardless of national loyalties. For Politano and Staseff, both proud Italian-Canadians, the place to be would be Toronto’s infamous Italian neighborhood at St. Clair Avenue.
And, after all is said and done, the opportunity to engage in a little pick-up footie right here at the University of Toronto will still be very much alive.