[Canadian Soccer League]
For many from southern Ontario,1971 was the year Toronto Croatia won the Canadian championship, the year comedian Jerry Lewis came to the CNE, and the year Santos of Brazil, with Pele, brought the magic of Brazilian soccer to Toronto.
Memories of that Brazilian visit are still vivid. It was a Wednesday night, June 23, the night many Canadians – including Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau – became fans for life. With all seats taken one hour before kickoff, the match was played before an overflow crowd, including gate-crashers who scaled the walls and were given a legs-up by Toronto police. It is estimated that of the 26,000 in attendance, 4,000 were unpaid and were escorted to sit on the ground perimeter tarmac to watch a game no one wanted to miss.
Italy’s Bologna was the opposition and Santos won 2-1.
The atmosphere was electric at Varsity stadium that summer night, with keep possession football played by Santos from the Brazilian largest city of Sao Paulo and led by Pele fascinating the most ardent of soccer followers, all while supporters of the Italian side urged their players to cope with opposition moves that seemed impossible to stop. At times, it was bedlam.
With the visit to Toronto next week of Anarqui Futebol & Amigos, a Brazilian veterans team also from Sao Paulo and here to play the CSL Veteran All-Stars at the St. Joan of Arc Stadium at Maple, just north of Toronto, the memories flood back even if the geography is the only similarity between the two sides.
Anarqui Futebol & Amigos, a team of 45s plus and long past its prime, now plays in Sao Paulo’s amateur championship and makes overseas tours to a number of countries, mostly in Europe and the African continent, a schedule they have been following for 11 years.
This year, they have decided for the first time to take on teams in North America and will be playing against a CSL Veteran All-Stars side in the Toronto area this coming Tuesday, August 28, followed by games at Montreal and Quebec City, completing the tour with a game in Orlando, Florida.
Kickoff time in the opener at the St. Joan of Arc Stadium at Maple on Tuesday is 7pm.