It may not have grabbed the headlines, but the announcement yesterday that Toronto FC has signed TFC Academy player Doneil Henry is a milestone in Canadian professional soccer. The Brampton native was just 14 years old when Toronto FC kicked off its inaugural season, and a 10 year-old when the CSA first announced its desire for an MLS franchise in Canada. Remember? When the Toronto Lynx was Toronto's most prominent footballing side?
Seven years later, and Henry has the potential to be a regular starter for a team in a league featuring that other Henry, Thierry. Yes, the lack of a reserve side means he will need to fight hard for first team experience for his career to develop, but it's hard to put a lot of negative spin on this announcement in the context of recent Canadian soccer history. Seven years ago, Canada was in the soccer wilderness as far as professional development was concerned. Henry represents the first of what I hope will be many young players coming through on the back of MLS Academy teams, from Vancouver to Montreal.
It's important to stress that we did not get to this point by accident. The advent of Toronto FC, and the subsequent interest by other Canadian cities in acquiring MLS franchises, came on the back of the hard-work of the municipal government in Toronto, who, in cooperation with MLSE, overcame penny-pinching counselors, small-minded pundits, and a typically Canadian provincialism to help finally bring soccer home. In other words, Toronto FC was born out of a small but courageous decision made by local government, a decision that forever changed the sporting landscape across the entire country.
That's why I urge my Toronto readers, and indeed anyone who lives in a seemingly small, innocuous city, to vote in municipal elections. As you know, we have one coming up here next month. Lest you are complacent and don't think local government has the power to do a lot of good (or bad, as the case may be), Toronto FC should serve as a reminder how small, tiny decisions can have a massive effect, positive or negative, on a community of people well outside city limits.
So please Toronto, vote, and vote carefully.