Ailsa Blair, who recently moved to Toronto from the UK, discusses the Reds’ next match – a friendly against MLS side FC Toronto in July.
Foreword: Last week I was asked by the Roger’s Centre here in Toronto, Canada, what I thought of the Liverpool FC v Toronto FC friendly to be played here on July 21. After some research, it turns out a lot of the TFC fans are pretty against the idea, and not a lot of LFC fans even know the game is taking place. With this in mind I decided to compose this article to discuss why I think that this pre-season friendly is hugely important for both sides, and the changes it could bring about for each team.
This summer Liverpool are heading to my new home, Toronto, on July 21. I, for one, am very excited about this. Others over here, most particularly TFC fans, are not.
After moving to Toronto in August 2011, and after spending 3 months in the States, there are two things I desperately miss about back home; my family, and watching Liverpool play at Anfield. We all know that nothing beats being part of the Kop on a European night, and now we, as Toronto based LFC fans, have the ability to bring that atmosphere to North America. That is pretty exciting.
What I believe to be more exciting is the opportunity that lies before us. Let’s face it, Liverpool FC is a shambles right now. I am writing this article four days after Kenny’s departure, when we have no idea who our next manager will be, and with endless rumours circling the internet about how we are likely to lose most of our top players. The coming months are vital to Liverpool Football Club. Not only do we have to find the missing jigsaw puzzle managerial wise, but we also have an uphill battle to assure the players that LFC will continue to grow into a club that will be challenging for top success.
Every LFC fan I have talked to over the last few days has a different idea who would be the best fit for us going forward, and most of them also have varying ideas of what we need as a club. Right now, we have no idea whether we are going to end up with Pep Guardiola, Andre Villa Boas, Rafa Benitez, or one of the many other names being linked with the vacant position. So let’s stop worrying about it. In all honesty, we have no control over whom FSG decide to put in charge of our beloved club. What we do have control over is showing our support to a club that many of us have supported since we were children. For me, the best way that we can do that is to spend the next two months focusing on the fact that we are the ones who get to see this new generation of LFC play for the first time. Most importantly, as North American based fans, we get to show every single person that is connected to LFC and the world of football, that we are still a massive club. We are a club who can sell out stadiums in Europe, Asia AND North America. We are a club that has the best fans in the world behind them.
Now, I know that a lot of the Toronto FC fans are less than happy with the fact that their (so far troublesome) season is being disturbed by a friendly with a team that most of them couldn’t care less about. I get that, I really do. If this game was being played in the middle of October and one of LFC’s games had to be rescheduled, I would probably be less than pleased. However, I would also try to see the upside of the situation – because in truth, there’s nothing you can do to change it at this point. Let’s perhaps think of it in a more positive way, if TFC beat Liverpool on July 21, the kind of confidence that would come from beating a team that has won 18 league titles and 5 European cups would transfer to future MLS games. It would help restore some of the belief that many may feel TFC have been missing so far this season.
Liverpool choosing to play TFC is huge. From my experience back in the UK, many fans of the beautiful game do not have the first clue what the MLS even is. After telling many of my friends of my first Major League Soccer game in 2010, a total of one of them even knew that North America had a soccer league. It is games like these that change that. Having games like this is going to help not only the development of the MLS as a whole, but also in gaining more exposure for future European based players to want to come here. Yes, players in the twilight of their careers such as Beckham, Keane, Henry and Frings are currently playing in the MLS, but continued exposure and growth could one day help attract top class young talent to the North American market. That really is something the MLS should and seems to be aspiring to.
Furthermore, to explore a slightly different avenue of my previous point; On many tours of North America, Premier League teams often choose to play against European opposition who are also touring, or US All-Star teams. This is the perfect time, and is a huge boost for Canada’s recent attempts to grow in their MLS presence. Do we not want to see more Canadian teams in the MLS? And the development of more Canadian talent? When families take their children to games like these, it will be a memory that will live on with many of them forever. Is that not what we all want as soccer fans? For the game to continue to grow and develop into new, exciting avenues.
This game has endless opportunities for both sides, which are looking for growth and exposure in different ways. So why waste time focusing on the negativity when there are so many positives to be taken away from this game? We could have a chance to watch history in the making.
Liverpool play Toronto at 4pm on Saturday July 21 at the Rogers Centre. More information and tickets can be found at www.lfctour.com