Posts Tagged ‘sports’
Writing for Torontoist’s Historicist feature, David Wencer traces the history of World Cup and soccer fandom in Toronto. Not surprisingly, it took off only in the 1970s, largely among populations of immigrant origin. (The English seem singled out for less hostile attention than the Italians.)
Every four years, Torontonians congregate around bars and cafés, glued to live broadcasts of World Cup games. Flags fly from cars and shop windows, and every so often a street fills with fans celebrating their home country’s victory. In the 1960s, such celebrations were still unheard of in Toronto. While the World Cup did warrant some coverage in the local newspapers, it scarcely dominated the local sports sections as it does today.
In 1962, the CBC broadcasted Brazil’s victory in the final over Czechoslovakia—a full two weeks after the game had taken place. CBC aired the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany live on the radio at 10:00 a.m. EST, and aired it on television two hours later. Although local newspapers reported the tournament results with some interest, none of the Toronto papers took a special interest in England’s victory, nor reported on any reactions from English expatriates living in the city.
Things started changing in 1970, as the advent of mass communication enabled Torontonians to watch live broadcasts of the matches from Mexico. These live broadcasts were not available on regular television, however; the Toronto City Soccer Club acquired the rights to show games on closed-circuit television, and charged admission for those willing to pay.
On June 7, 1970, a capacity crowd of 5,300 watched a group stage match between England and Brazil at Varsity Arena, while a further 3,000 fans were turned away at the door. According to the Globe and Mail, the decidedly pro-England crowd at the arena “applauded and yelled through most of the contest. Loudest cheers were reserved for the outstanding play of the two goalkeepers, and Bobby Charlton of England and Pele of Brazil.” The same article notes that the game would have been shown at Maple Leaf Gardens—where, indeed, the later matches were shown live in 1970—but the venue was unavailable due to a Red Army Chorus concert.
Tickets at these live, closed-circuit broadcasts sold for between five and seven dollars. One Globe and Mail article predicted a sellout at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Italy-Mexico match. A few days later, the Globe ran a picture of an Italian crowd celebrating in the Toronto streets following their semifinal victory over West Germany, setting the stage for the final against Brazil. A mostly pro-Italy, sellout crowd watched Brazil cruise to a 4-1 victory at the Gardens.