Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Post-War Years -- Toronto Soccer Starts from Scratch

War is not good for professional sport, and the Second World War pushed soccer in Toronto to the brink. As servicemen and women returned home in 1945, soccer slowly made its return in 1946 Eastern Canada with the introduction of yet another ill-fated soccer loop: the North American Professional Soccer League.

The league was comprised of professional teams from Canadian and American cities, and Toronto's outfit were known as the 'Greenbacks.' Apparently, as irate sports columnist Jim Coleman pointed out in March of 1946, the participation of the club in the new league seemed to cause great consternation among local soccer officials running Toronto's long-standing amateur T & D league. They were incensed that the club would go ahead and provide professional football without consulting anyone, and apparently gave the Greenback owners a questionnaire which first asked "What do you intend to do with the profits?" (Coleman suggested they use it to 'build a soundproof outhouse where all of Toronto's soccer officials can stay until the end of the professional season.')

Coleman's remarks were made in light of the in-fighting going on between local soccer organizers. The Dominion Football Association, now the CSA, was mired in a battle to prevent Canada's western provinces from splitting off completely. Provinces like Manitoba and British Columbia felt they were propping up Eastern Canada's lack-lustre promotion of the game. Canadian soccer historian Colin Jose points to tensions spilling over at the general DFA meeting in Montreal in 1948, with BC delegate Jock Hendry remarking that BC and Manitoba were 'carrying the DFA,' and the Globe reported rumours of a division between east and west as early as 1946. Soccer was not off to a good start after the war.

Toronto Globe, May 10 1946

Clubs and players were rusty too. Liverpool visited for a June 1946 tour (see the photo for a young Bob Paisely) and crushed Toronto Ulster United, once a National Soccer League powerhouse, 11 to 1. Meanwhile, the 'Greenbacks' struggled through the money-losing NAPSL, and in 1947 the league folded. Soccer was clearly no longer the draw it once was. As Torontonians became enamoured with ice hockey and soccer officials continued to battle among themselves, soccer drifted to the sidelines, only to be picked up in the 1950s by WWII's war-weary displaced persons.


fredorrarci said...

Not only have I been informed and entertained by this series, I've only picked up some great new vocabulary. To 'rhubarbs' now add 'foosh!', 'tosh!' and 'Od's bodikins!'

Richard Whittall said...

One can only wish to hear what regular conversation in this vernacular sounded like. "Hey ma, I got in a right rhubarb at school today!"