TFCA v Toronto soccer community

Duane Rollins
by Duane Rollins, 12-18-2013

The naming of Greg Vanney as the new head of TFC Academy last week is the type of news that really only resonates with the most tuned in of fan. It has little to do with the first team and almost certainly will not change the end results there in the immediate future.

Academy news is about the long-term health of the club and over-all vision. It’s big picture. Most fans take note and move on to the latest transfer rumour.

And, so it was last week. There wasn’t a lot of thought given to Vanney with the news of Defoe and Gilberto to consider.

However, among many deeply involved in the Ontario soccer community the appointment was big news and something to be talked about in detail. What the appointment said about the relationship between the greater soccer community in the GTA and TFC was the main topic of conversation.

Most of the conversation was negative. The general feeling was that the appointment of an outsider — an American, no less — was further evidence that TFC doesn’t value the local community.

This isn’t a new situation. Many people in the community have argued for some time that TFC disrespects them. The main contention is that TFC doesn’t look to local talent to fill coaching roles in the academy, instead using the MLS old boys network to put people in place that, it is felt, lack the proper qualifications.

Additionally, it’s felt that TFC is, for lack of a better way to put it, condescending to them and expects them to cooperate by channelling their best players into the academy.

There had been some hope that Tim Bezbatchenko might change the relationship, but Vanney’s appointment is seen as an example of more of the same. Although having a new face in charge could result in a fresh start one GTA insider put it bluntly.

“It will take a least a year of TFC demonstrating good faith before the wounds start to heal.”

The divide is real and it is preventing TFCA from fully fulfilling its promise.

There is little doubt that TFC could have done a better job negotiating the politics of the local scene and that it has made some questionable hires on the coaching side. There are talented coaches getting overlooked and it would benefit TFC to try and bring some on board.

TFC is not without fault in this dispute.

However, the soccer community has to look in the mirror too. There is a generation of failure that came before TFC that they must wear and, from an outside perspective, at least some of the grievances have the hint of petty to them.

If Vanney sincerely reaches out, they need to keep an open mind about mending this relationship. There is an instinct in this community to discredit TFC and a resistance to work with them.

It’s unclear how that benefits the sport or the kids that are involved.

The bottom line is that the local system is much stronger with a pro academy at the top of the pyramid. As much as the grievances may seem justified, Canada got into the mess it is in at least partly because different parts of the system refused to work with each other.

So, TFCA: Do better and respect the rest of the system. The soccer community: Drop the anger, give credit to TFCA where warranted and remember that the end goal is to produce players, not stick it to TFC.

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