TFC proud to support 'You Can Play'

TFC becomes the first soccer team in Canada to lend a voice to the You Can Play Project
by Sonja Missio   |   Monday, December 10, 2012

Red Dawn Rising - column on Toronto FC (TFC) & the Toronto Ontario soccer scene

Toronto FC has had an eventful, exciting and important week.

From the office side of things, Kevin Payne’s appointment as the new club president is now very real. He’s had a busy start to December, introducing himself to both his team and its fans via interviews and questionnaires (that read surprisingly similar to my online dating profile, excluding the fact I don’t have a wife or kids). Fans may be starting to become familiar with the new president, but that’s not something I find important or exciting (though Payne and I seem to have similar music tastes).

TFC’s calendar is also filling up, as for the fourth year in a row, the team will participate in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, held in Orlando, Fla. Training camp starts Jan. 19, with the tournament running Feb. 9 to 23. But that’s not what I find particularly important or exciting, either.

From the pitch level, announcements have been made as Justin Braun was unveiled as the newest forward (I cringe at the Braun/Payne puns already). Earlier last week, Eric Avila, Adrian Cann, Jeremy Hall, Ty Harden, and Andrew Wiedeman were listed as “Options Declined” on the MLS Re-Entry List. Again, while this may be important – though, I still don’t understand the point of sports drafts – it’s not what I find particularly exciting (or relevant).

Online rumors have also been flying all weekend that the team is in talks with former Montreal Impact coach Jesse Marsch for the currently-filled head coach position, despite near assurance from Payne that Paul Mariner would remain at the helm. This – if true – could very well be important and, depending on your own perspective, pretty exciting/a godsend.

However, to me, all of the above pales in comparison to what happened earlier in the week. I’m referring to an announcement I think can be considered one of the most important – and one that I am certainly most proud of – in TFC history.

On Monday, Dec. 3, Toronto FC teamed up with You Can Play (YCP) to deliver a simple, but potent, message: If you can play, you can play.

YCP is dedicated to ensuring equality for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. The group works to guarantee people are given a fair opportunity to compete, and seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing on athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

A group of TFC players and coaches recorded a video for the YCP Project to reflect their mission statement and declare the following:

If you can run, you can run

If you can shoot, you can shoot

If you can tackle, you can tackle

If you can save, you can save

If you can coach, you can coach

If you can play, you can play

The video (accessible here) has Richard Eckersley, Darren O'Dea and coach Mariner proclaim this message in English, where follow teammates, Stefan Frei, Torsten Frings, Eric Hassli, Milos Kocic, Luis Silva and academy director Thomas Rongen, declare it in their native languages of Swiss-German, German, French, Serbian, Spanish, and Dutch, respectively.

On the face of it, the clip is a feel-good 41 seconds that unites the team in a way we’ve never seen before.

However, it is the video’s approach to the subject that makes it most interesting. It is not just about the players repeating YCP’s mission of equality, but rather, it is about the individual players/coaches reiterating that message in their own languages and as their own person, rather than just collectively as a team.

In other words, the message's power comes from the individual statement given by each player.

Once upon a time (a few seasons ago, at least) BMO Field use to fly the flags of all TFC's players’ nationalities. This video brings back memories of that; people coming from all places, with all backgrounds, united for one cause.

There’s something so elegant about the video that trying to explain it in words does disservice to its message. I have watched it a dozen times now and the impact does not lessen; it is undemanding, but assertive, all the while being compelling and powerful.

The video – and its message – works because of its simplicity. The message is given so matter-of-factly, that it’s almost a surprised that no one adds “duh” on the end. The black-and-white mini-soliloquies act as a metaphor for the message – “If you can play, you can play” – by being uncomplicated themselves. The minimalist construct of the concept makes it seem almost mind-blowing that people can choose to complicate it.

When I asked YCP’s co-founder Patrick Burke his thoughts on the video, and Toronto’s participation, he responded, “We are thrilled and grateful for the support of Toronto FC and for the continued support of the Toronto sports community at large.”

And, believe me, he is not the only one.

I am proud of my team for their support of the YCP Project. I’m also proud of its fans for their great reception to the video. I suggest that you take a few minutes to visit the YCP site if you’re interested in learning more.

A lot has happened over the last season for Toronto, and I suspect that next season won’t be any less drama-filled. However, despite differences on the pitch pertaining to coaching, leadership, and style, it is nice to see the bigger picture of understanding, acceptance and opportunity of being able to play is at the forefront of Toronto FC’s collective mind. 


Univ. of Guelph, Univ. of W. Ontario, Brock University
Club Domestic:
Toronto FC
Club Foreign:
Supported Udinese since birth, TFC was her own stupid decision; writing on her masochistic relationship with soccer started after. Doomed as a Canadian - Friulano - Swiss - Filipina. Searching for Juventini actually from Turin and running for FIFA Prez.