As football continues to expand around the globe, with until very recently large “football immune” countries like the USA and India now joining the party, inevitably the culture(s) of football changes too. A recent book by Gabriel Kuhn – “Soccer vs the State” celebrates the game’s rebellious working class seeds, but in 2016 it is worth doing a cutural MIC check.
Professional football was always a money and social control enterprise from its capitalist origins in 19th century England and its potentially destablizing class origins have been kept in check whenever they spill out, as occasionally still, in violence that could jeopardize those who financially own the game. Football is not exactly the opium of the masses, since 20th century social protest and revolution were populated with footballing fans but has the potential to be so directed.
Requiring just a ball to play, although even that was beyond the means of many of our working class ancestors, football will always be a poular game because of its technological and financial accessibillity. But as is evident in the collapse of Brazilian football in recent years the days of street footballers like Pele taking on and beating the world are likely gone for ever. It is not that Neymar and his teammates are incapable athletically but do they have the “hunger” that motivated their formed in the streets predecessors in yellow?
Cars own the streets in most football-intense urban settings, discouraging street football, and kids with talent are parentally propelled into academies which cost significant investment. Football’s passion, like that of all the most accesible/popular sports such as basketball is social/collective in origin while the energy comes from “hunger”, both material and cultural. “I exist and can possibly beat someone at this game, if nowhere else” is the message and will likely always be so as long as radical inequality is with us. But is this still the people’s game when middle class “academies” are increasingly the route to success?
If we left the story there the implications would be depressing, but simultaneously with the growth of increasingly corporatized football has arisen another trend, of which soccer legend Johan Cruyff’s Foundation was the pioneer and which this blog’s purpose is to celebrate. Cruyff was motivated by his awareness of the gulf spearating those with, from those without, the ability to participate, for financial, or physical, reasons. He initiated the contruction of Cruyff Court facilities to bridge that gulf. And in an age of growing extremes this is a fight worth fighting and to which Red Panamericana’s plannned Cruyff Court Toronto is dedicated.
Ilja Van Holsteijn of the Johan Cruyff Foundation (centre) with representatives and supporters of Cruyff Court Toronto at the Toronto Azzurri Youth Sport Village on April 11,2016
On Monday April 11,Cruyff Court Toronto (Canada’s first) invitees welcomed Johan Cruyff Foundation representative Ilja Van Holsteijn to our planned Court site on the Toronto Azzurri Youth Sport Village at 4995 Keele Street. In addition to directors of our Red Panamericana Toronto board and Toronto Azzuri Ilja met staff at the Dutch Consulate, Tamasha Grant of the Driftwood Community Centre, Jose Etcheverry of York University’s Department of Environmental Studies, our George Brown College Placement Student Quentin Fitter, Martin VanDenzen of the Dutch Touch community radio programme, Toronto soccer personality John VanderKolk and international guest Pralad Adhikari from Nepal. Plans were made for a further visit in the Fall when physical construction is expected to be under way. Among other matters we discussed with Ilja the importance of free access to the Court for local residents, the potential for sponsorship by Dutch-Canadian organizations, and our commitment to community involvement in Court governance.
Regretfully, following the recent news from the Netherlands Johan Cruyff is no more. His legacy lives on through the global network of Cruyff Courts to which the Johan Cruyff Foundation has given birth. At this time Cruyff Court Toronto, with our planned court to be located at 4995 Keele Street, renews its commitment to bring Canada’s first Cruyff Court to Toronto and encourages all those who, like Johan, support opportunity especially for the excluded, to join us. We invite your comments and contributions of any kind to Cruyff Court Toronto through Red Panamericana Toronto, our sponsoring non-profit, and provider of this Blog.
Thanks to PPAG for the invite to speak to them on Thursday about street kids in Nepal and to our colleagues Bob Iarusci and Pralad Adhikari for working with us on our ideas here and there.
On january 18th Red Panamericana Toronto representatives met our Toronto Azzuri partners at their Keele Reservoir site to plan for Court construction and a reception for the scheduled visit of Cruyff Foundation staff in April, 2016.
Thank you to Paul Gregory of Street Soccer Canada who recently sent us the following: “We need the diversity on the pitch each day to be a reflection of all peoples in our community. Cruyff courts help to do that – through providing a space and a philosophy that seeks to include all players. Street Soccer Canada fully endorse the work of the Cruyff Court Toronto Plan and all that seek to make it happen…”
Only a couple of weeks after Street Soccer Canada, Canada’s soccer NGO for the homeless, played at this year’s Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam, founder Paul Gregory, met the board of Cruyff Court Toronto to discuss opportunities for collaboration and mutual support. We learned about the difficulties Street Soccer Canada was experiencing in finding affordable playing facilities and explained the Cruyff Foundation commitment to fair play and accessibility to all. A plan was approved by our board to host a Street Soccer game early in the life of Cruyff Court Toronto, starting in 2016.
Such energy and community spirit! TorontotheBetter was happy to make many new Jane-Finch solidarity friends at the Driftwood Multicultural Festival on the weekend of September 26, and tell them about our plans for Cruyff Court Toronto, Canada’s first Cruyff Court Toronto. Our next step will be to work with Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty and others to host a local benefit screening of the Homeless World Cup video.
On Wednesday, July 29 Toronto Azzurri Youth Sports Village and Red Panamericand Toronto were pleased to show our site to guests from the City of Toronto, York University and the Toronto Dutch community. Among those visiting were Lucia Bresolin, John Vanderkolk, Nathan Stern, and Martin Van Denzen. Pictured with them above are Dick Howasrd of Cruyff Court Toronto and Bob Iarusci of Toronto Azzurri Youth Sports Village. Thanks to all for your support. We look forward to working with all partners as we bring Cruyff Court Toronto, an important, and much-needed, new sports, health, and wellness facility to North-West Toronto.
In “Casino Seems Respectable in Rexdale” [June 29,2015] Toronto Star architectural critic Christopher Hume comments on the different community reception of a Toronto Casino proposal for the Waterfront [“aghast”, “opposition was overwhelming”] and Rexdale, North West Toronto [“singing the praises”, “the answer to all our problems”]. He is really talking about class issues here. Rexdale, Jane-Finch and the rest of north-west Toronto is a largely poor and immigrant community, while downtown Toronto is increasingly the preserve of people who are not.
But if there are those willing to dump on poor neighbourhoods what they would never allow in their own, projects like our proposed Cruyff Court Toronto, named after Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff, are also coming to North West Toronto. and are a sign of the vibrant community spirit that escapes the awareness of too many in the mainstream. Planned for the Keele Street reservoir site at Keele and Steeles, where it will share the lands managed by Toronto Azzurri Youth Sports Village, Cruyff Court Toronto is evidence of community resilience and pride. It will support the development of soccer, yes, but also supports the 14 principles of fair play laid down by the international Cruyff Foundation [www.cruyff-Foundation.org]..Cruyff Court Toronto will be a beacon for inclusion and local development. Red Panamericana Toronto, the non-profit sponsoring Cruyff Court Toronto is pleased to bring Canada’s first Cruyff Court to North -West Toronto, where, according to Driftwood Community Centre staff Jamasha and Jasmine, existing recreational facilities are stretched to the limit.
At a time when the Pan-Am Games seems mainly to be adding capacity to existing facilities Red Panamericana Toronto partners TorontotheBetter Learning and Development, the Hispanic Development Council and Toronto Azzurri Youth Sports Village are pleased to bring a unique new facility to one of Toronto’s historically most underserved areas. For more information contact email@example.com or call TorontotheBetter at 416-707-3509. Cruyff Court Toronto is a community investment, not a gamble. We know the returns will be community-rich.