Discovered this via Duane Rollins’ 24thminute, a Daily Mail op-ed that magically conflates lukewarm Canadian interest in Manchester United’s visit to Toronto with a pube discovered on a hotel bar of soap. Apparently Canadian media outlets haven’t shown enough deference to a second-string Premier League side visiting for a friendly against Celtic, with tickets prices starting north of $90 CAD:
There was no escape from the 90-degree heat and stifling humidity when Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester United players flew into Toronto from Chicago and little sign that the first match of their North American tour against Celtic on Friday night is attracting anything more than a ripple of interest locally.
The Toronto Star ignored the game completely despite giving a sizeable show to the reaction to Thierry Henry’s move to New York Red Bulls and Argentina’s offer of a four-year contract to Diego Maradona, while The Globe and Mail decided it was worthy of a paltry three paragraphs in the soccer round-up of their sports pull-out.
The local sports network preferred to focus on the Toronto Argonauts and their first home game in the Canadian Football League season, while running a particularly tragic feature about one of the Blue Jays baseball players on a seemingly continuous loop. It was poignant first time around but lost some of its dramatic effect when you saw it for the fourth time before breakfast.
The horror, that a Canadian television network would open with the Toronto Argonauts, a 137 year-old Canadian team playing for a Canadian domestic league in Canada, when Manchester United’s half-cocked visit—the Manchester United!—was clearly the bigger story.
To be fair, slagging this kind of piece—which presupposes the globally-accepted superiority of the Premier League in a way made fun of around the world—is like shooting fish in a barrel. But it’s telling that the one major similarity behind these kind of stories on North American soccer is that they omit any mention of MLS or its teams. As Rollins points out, Canadians aren’t stupid; we’re not going to pay hand over fist to see a United shit show when we have a real soccer club in town with indigenous support. That TFC draws 20 000 supporters a game, or even that the club exists, is ignored by the author.
In the end, United’s failure to draw fans for second-string friendly demonstrates how the old “Watch Soccer-Live!” selling point has lost its allure in Toronto over the last three years. If Man U had planned instead to play a friendly against Toronto FC, chances are the South Stand would still be in Toronto red, many of them chanting about the Glazers and “Manure’s plastic fans.”
Combined with the boos of Beckham that confused a gathered global press when he first visited with the Galaxy, plus the wonder at why BMO Field would erupt into cheers after Gabe Gala scored against Real Madrid last summer, United’s potential failure in drawing an affluent fanbase to the Rogers Centre demonstrates the enormity of the change Canadian soccer culture has undergone since TFC’s arrival in 2007. The traveling circus attitude of some traveling clubs, and their embedded journos, no longer generates slack-jawed awe. If the English Premier League still wants to capture the hearts, minds and dollars of American and Canadian fans, it would do well to pay them a little more respect.