Saturday, April 15, 2006

What Next, Borussia Edmonton? How's About Winnipeg Hotspur?

Andy digs up a real scoop: although it is as of yet unnannounced, Toronto's Major League Soccer expansion franchise will be named Inter Toronto FC.

By choosing Inter, Maple Leaf Sports has signalled their overt desire to have the MLS resonate with Toronto's largest single ethnic community--the Italians. To any Italian worth their olive oil however, there will always be only one "Inter," and it won't find itself playing on the south side of the Gardiner Expressway.

While I might like to mock the lack of originality in pilfering the new moniker from Inter Milan, I kind of like the name. Toronto is as international as any city in terms of its cultural make up, so Inter actually fits, although I have no idea if that is what Inter is intended to signify. Inter could have some deeper Italian soccer connotation along the lines of "dive like a fairy," "play for a tie," or "everyone loves a firecracker mob riot." And besides, several MLS teams have robbed their labels from other European super clubs: Real Salt Lake, Club Deportivo Chivas USA, and Dynamo Houston. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. Last year we named our poli sci indoor intramurals squad "Real Politik."

Slated to debut in 2007, Inter T.O.F.C. will have a different set of rules governing player nationality than stateside MLS rosters. According to our friends at the CBC, Toronto has to have mainly Canadian players, just as the Yankee teams are made up of Yanks. However, Inter T.O. can take a few more internationals --that would be non-Canadians-- than the American squads can, presumably to make up for the shallower Canadian talent pool. This might strike some football fans as odd, given that the FA, for instance, has no foreign player limitation rules (causing some to get on teams like Arsenal for their paucity of English talent). However, it is clear that the emergence of the MLS as a legitimate sporting league --I admit I don't follow it but I know they get regular 20,000 fan gates-- has greatly boosted the American side in international competition. The opportunity for Americans to play regular professional football in a viable league when European football is that much more inaccessible, coupled with the influence of foreign players drawn in by respectable salaries, has gradually increased the quality of the MLS, to the point where star MLS players are being courted in Europe. Most hopeful for the future of the MLS is the tendency for the best players to stay rather than be poached to the other side of the pond. If this trend can continue, we might get the best Canadian players deciding to stay here, making for a better international squad that canucks living in Europe might be less ashamed to play for. While Owen Hargreaves can never play for Canada after collecting a respectable number of England caps, we can hope that the next Hargreaves decides playing for Canada is better than riding the bench for his mommy's motherland.

I'm excited by the prospect of decent pro football in Toronto. If they can put out a good product I expect it to be a success.


At 9:08 PM, Blogger Alex said...

1. When did San Jose lose their team? Was it part of the league's master plan to get Landon Donovan onto a marquee team (LA)?

2. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out where Chivas USA plays their home games.

3. I don't see the connection of most of the bastardized European names. Real Salt Lake? Who is that appealing too? Andrei Kirilenko is as ethnic as it gets in Utah. And speaking of, is there a large Russian community in Houston that I am unaware of, or is there no connection to how their team earned the Dynamo name?

4. Murph, how could you not DC United in the aforementioned category. They were one of the founding teams when MLS started up a decade ago. As an aside, I seem to know more than I should about MLS.

5. One other connection to the Europeanization of soccer is the New York MetroStars being renamed the Red Bulls, after their new energy drink-producing owners. This is the first step towards advertising on the jerseys.

6. Real Politik. That's gold.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Sheamus Murphy said...

As I stated, I don't follow MLS. I will soon be hooking up Fox Sports World which could change that, but frankly its enough to keep up with the continent. A good home side however could pique interest enough to change all of that.

Good point on DC United. Perhaps the oversight was a result of my subconscious annoyance that Man U is colloquially referred to as just "United" when there is another United out there - my beloved Newcastle United.

I recognize that there aren't huge local ethnic affiliations to the other club names, like Latinos in Salt Lake. But Real Madrid is a global brand. Any Dynamo just sounds cool.

Calling your team the Red Bulls is atrocious. It reminds me of how the local Tim Horton's franchise often doles out uniforms to the neighborhood pee-wee squad. Soon every under-9 soccer squad will be called the "Timbits" and every game a Timbits versus Timbits derby.

I prefer naming your team something non-sensical and abstract, as MLB does. Various sox, birds, natives, colors, funny meaningless adjectives. I hate the trend of calling your team something menacing, like the Wild or Grizzlies or Ice Dogs or whatever. The aforementioned soccer names, despite being rip-offs, are suitably inconspicious while having a nice ring to them.

At 12:14 PM, Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Two important points that you appear to have overlooked: soccer is for pansies and Toronto is a shitty sports city. This won't fly.

At 5:21 PM, Blogger Eau de Chacin said...

Does the Book of Mormon allow for the carnal enjoyment of football? I can't see a SLC game being exciting in the least - on the other hand, an army of shirt-and-tie proselytizers getting bussed out to away games brings a whole new dimension to the concept of hooliganism. I think I'd rather get the Chelsea smile.

Here's hoping for a Dynamo Vegreville expansion.


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